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Title: Life of James Buchanan, v. 1 (of 2) - Fifteenth President of the United States
Author: Curtis, George Tickner
Language: English
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                          Transcriber’s Note:

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[Illustration: James Buchanan]

                             JAMES BUCHANAN


                         GEORGE TICKNOR CURTIS

                            _IN TWO VOLUMES_
                                VOL. I.

                                NEW YORK

               Copyright, 1883, by GEORGE TICKNOR CURTIS.

                         _All rights reserved._


                   _Stereotyped by Smith & McDougal._


Notwithstanding the proverbial tendency of biographers to contract what
Macaulay has called “the disease of admiration,” no one who can lay
claim to any strength of mind need allow the fear of such an imputation
to prevent him from doing justice to a public man whose life, for
whatever reason, he has undertaken to write. But that my readers may
judge of the degree of my exposure to this malady, a frank explanation
of the circumstances under which I came to write this work is due both
to them and to myself.

In the summer of 1880, the executors and the nearest surviving relatives
of Mr. Buchanan asked me to allow them to place in my hands the whole
collection of his private papers, with a view to the preparation of a
biographical and historical work concerning his public and private life.
This duty could not have been undertaken by me, without an explicit
understanding that I was to treat the subject in an entirely independent
and impartial spirit. To be of much value, the work, as I conceived,
must necessarily be, to some extent, a history of the times in which Mr.
Buchanan acted an important part as a public man. Moreover, although I
had been for far the greater part of this period an attentive observer
of public affairs, I had no special interest in Mr. Buchanan’s fame, and
was never personally known to him. I could have no object, therefore, of
any kind, to subserve, save the truth of history; nor did the
representatives of Mr. Buchanan desire me, in assuming the office of his
biographer, to undertake that of an official eulogist. I have sought for
information, aside from the papers of the late President, in many
quarters where I knew that I could obtain it; but the opinions,
inferences and conclusions contained in these volumes are exclusively my
own, excepting in the few instances in which I have expressly quoted
those of other persons. No one has exercised or endeavored to exercise
the slightest influence over what I have said of Mr. Buchanan, and I
acknowledge and have felt no loyalty to his reputation beyond the
loyalty that every man owes to justice and to truth.

I have thought it proper to say this much concerning my relations to the
family of Mr. Buchanan, for two reasons. The President, by his will,
appointed as his biographer a personal friend, the late Mr. William B.
Reed of Philadelphia, in whom he had great confidence, and who was a
very accomplished writer. But Mr. Reed was prevented by private
misfortunes from doing anything more than to examine Mr. Buchanan’s
voluminous papers, and to prepare two introductory chapters of the
intended Life. Of these I could make no use, as they did not accord with
my method of treating the subject. After Mr. Reed had surrendered the
task which he had undertaken, the papers were placed in the hands of the
late Judge John Cadwallader of Philadelphia, another personal friend of
the President. This gentleman died before he had begun to write the
proposed work; and when the papers, which had been placed in his hands
by the executors, came into mine, along with another large collection
from Wheatland, I had to subject them to an entirely new arrangement and
classification, before anything could be done. In resorting to a
stranger as the biographer of Mr. Buchanan, his executors and friends
did what circumstances had rendered unavoidable. The only assurance I
can give is that I have had no reason to be otherwise than strictly
faithful to what I believe to be the truth concerning the whole of Mr.
Buchanan’s career.

The other reason for a candid explanation of my relation to this subject
will occur to every one. Mr. Buchanan’s administration of the Government
during the four years which preceded the commencement of our civil war,
is a topic upon which friends and foes have widely differed. But no
unprejudiced person who now examines the facts can doubt that, in many
minds, injustice has been done to him. Perhaps this was inevitable,
considering that a sectional civil war, of vast magnitude and attended
with great bitterness, followed immediately after his retirement from
office, when a political party which had been in opposition to his
administration came for the first time into the full control of the
Federal Government. It was in the nature of things—or rather, I should
say, it was in the nature of man—that those who succeeded to the
Government should have charged upon the outgoing administration that
they had been remiss in their public duty; and that under the example of
men in high places, there should have grown up a popular belief that Mr.
Buchanan favored the secession of the Southern States, either purposely,
or by lack of the proper energy to meet it in its incipient stages.
Charges of this kind found popular credence in a time of unexampled
excitement; and since the war was ended, there have been, and doubtless
there still are, many persons who regard President Buchanan as a man who
could have saved the country from a frightful civil war, if he had had
the wish and the energy to nip Secession in the bud.

Such, at all events, were the reproaches with which many of his
countrymen pursued him into retirement, and continued to follow him to
his grave. Denied as he was a hearing while he lived, because the perils
and turmoils of the immediate present unfitted men to look
dispassionately back into the past, he may well have desired that in
some calmer time, when he had gone where there is neither ignorance, nor
prejudice, nor rancor, some one should “read his cause aright to the
unsatisfied.” To that better time he looked forward with an undoubting
faith in the ultimate justice of his country. I believe that the time
which he anticipated has come; and that nothing more than a proper
examination of the facts is now needed, to insure for him all the
vindication that he could ever have desired.

In regard to this and to every other part of his life, I have found it
an interesting task to trace the history of a man whose public and
private character were always pure, whose patriotism was co-extensive
with his whole country, whose aims were high, and who was habitually
conscientious in the discharge of every obligation. My estimate of his
abilities and power as a statesman has risen with every investigation
that I have made; and it is, in my judgment, not too much to say of him
as a President of the United States, that he is entitled to stand very
high on the catalogue—not a large one—of those who have had the moral
courage to encounter misrepresentation and obloquy, rather than swerve
from the line of duty which their convictions marked out for them.

I must say a few words in explanation of my method of describing
important public transactions, the interest in which attaches both to
the events and to an individual who has borne a chief part in them.
There are two modes of historical writing. One is to make a narrative of
the course of a foreign negotiation, for example, or of any other public
action, without quoting despatches or documents. The other, which
scarcely rises above the dignity of compilation, is to let the story be
told mainly by the documents. But in biography, where the interest
centres for the nonce in some principal actor, I conceive that the
better course is to unite the two methods, by so much of description as
is needful to illustrate the documents, and by so much of quotation as
is needful to give force to the narrative. It often happens, however,
that the private letters which a person in high official station
receives or writes, are quite valuable to the elucidation of official
papers and official acts, as they certainly may render a description
more lively than it would be without them. The collection of Mr.
Buchanan’s papers is exceedingly rich in private correspondence, both
with persons towards whom he stood in official, and with other persons
towards whom he stood in only social, relations; and I have drawn
largely upon these materials. Whether I have accomplished the object at
which I have aimed, the reader will judge. It is for me to do no more
than to apprise him that I have endeavored to write for his instruction
and his entertainment, as well as to render justice to the person whose
life I have described. To vindicate in all things the public policy of
the party with which he acted, has not been my aim. I have only sought
to exhibit it in its true relation to the history of the times.
Sincerity and strength of conviction were as characteristic of those to
whom Mr. Buchanan was politically opposed, as they were of his political

It is perhaps almost superfluous for me to say that it would have been
impracticable for me within the limits of these two volumes to give an
account of every debate in Congress in which Mr. Buchanan took part, or
of every transaction with which he was connected as a foreign minister,
as Secretary of State, or as President. Such of his speeches as I have
quoted at length have been selected because of the interest that still
attaches to the subject, or some part of it, or because they illustrate
his powers as a debater; and in making selections or quotations from his
diplomatic papers, I have been unavoidably confined to those which
related to critical questions in our foreign relations. It was equally
impracticable for me to touch upon the connections which he had with
numerous political persons in the course of a public life of forty
years. I have drawn a necessary line, and have drawn it between those
with whom he stood in some important official relation, or who occupied
important public positions, and those who belong in the category of
politicians more or less prominent and active, with whom all very
eminent public men have more or less to do; including the former and
excluding the latter. But of course I have varied this rule in the case
of friends who stood in personal rather than political relations with

It remains for me to give a description of the materials of which I have
made use, and to make the customary acknowledgments to those who
supplied them.

Any man who has been in public life for a long period of time, and has
attained to the highest public stations, must necessarily have
accumulated a vast amount of materials of the highest importance to the
elucidation of his own history and of the history of the times in which
he has acted. Mr. Buchanan had a habit of preserving nearly everything
that came into his hands. The mass of his private correspondence is
enormous. I can hardly specify the number of letters that I have had to
read, in order to form an adequate idea of the state of the public mind
in the opposite sections of the Union during the period when he first
had to encounter the secession movement. My recollection of the
condition of public opinion at such junctures was pretty vivid, but I
could not venture to trust to it without examining the best evidence;
for undoubtedly the best evidence of public opinion was to be found in
the private letters which at such periods reached the President from all
quarters of the country. Many hundreds of such letters have been
examined, in order to write, and to write correctly, a very few pages.
Mr. Buchanan had also another habit of great utility. Although he did
not always keep a regular diary or journal, he rarely held an important
conversation, or was engaged in a critical transaction, without writing
down an account of it with his own hand immediately afterward. These
extremely valuable memoranda will be found to throw great light upon
many matters that have hitherto been left in obscurity, or have been
entirely misrepresented. He was also an indefatigable letter-writer; and
of those of his own letters of which he did not keep copies, he procured
many from his correspondents after his retirement to Wheatland. He wrote
freely, easily, and I should think rapidly. His familiar letters rarely
received or required much correction; but his official productions were
polished with great care.

The principal mass of these papers, along with the public documents
which were connected with them, was collected by Mr. Buchanan himself,
in the interval between his retirement from the Presidency and his
death. This collection was placed in my hands by his brother and
executor, the Rev. Edward Y. Buchanan, D.D., of Philadelphia. Another
large collection came to me from Mr. and Mrs. Henry E. Johnston, the
present possessors of Wheatland. Mrs. Johnston enriched the collection
of papers which were sent to me from Wheatland, by adding to them a
great quantity of her uncle’s letters to herself, of which she kindly
permitted me to take copies.

From James Buchanan Henry, Esq., nephew of the President, and for some
time his private secretary, and from Miss Buchanan, daughter of the Rev.
Dr. Buchanan, I have received interesting contributions, which have
found their place in my work.

Next to these, the immediate relatives of President Buchanan, I am
indebted to the Hon. Jeremiah S. Black, Attorney-General and afterwards
Secretary of State during Mr. Buchanan’s Presidency, for important
information. I am under like obligations to Brinton Coxe and Joseph B.
Baker, Esqs., of Philadelphia, friends of the late President.

And finally, from my own valued friend of many years, Samuel L. M.
Barlow, Esq., of New York, I have received two very interesting
contributions, which are quoted and credited in their appropriate
places. I am also under a similar obligation to W. U. Hensel, Esq., of
Lancaster, and to George Plumer Smith, Esq., of Philadelphia. Nor should
I omit to mention the name of Hiram B. Swarr, Esq., co-executor with Dr.
Buchanan, and the confidential lawyer of the late President, at
Lancaster, as one who has very materially aided my researches.

NEW YORK, May 1, 1883.


                               CHAPTER I.


 Birth and Parentage—Early Education and College Life—Study            1
   of the Law—Admission to the Bar—Settles in Lancaster—A
   Volunteer in the War of 1812—Enters the Legislature of
   Pennsylvania—Early Distinction—Professional Income—Retires
   from Public Life—Disappointment in Love—Re-enters Public
   Life—Elected to Congress

                               CHAPTER II.

 Monroe’s Administration—Eminent Men in Congress—Notices of           23
   William Lowndes and John Randolph of Roanoke—John
   Sargeant—Buchanan becomes a leading Debater—Bankrupt
   Bill—Cumberland Road—The Tariff

                              CHAPTER III.

 Election of John Quincy Adams—The “Bargain and                       38
   Corruption”—Unfounded Charge—General Jackson’s erroneous
   Impression—His Correspondence with Mr. Buchanan

                               CHAPTER IV.

 Bitter Opposition to the Administration of John Quincy               57
   Adams—Bill for the Relief of the Revolutionary
   Officers—The Panama Mission—Incidental Reference to

                               CHAPTER V.

 Great Increase of General Jackson’s                                  70
   Popularity—“Retrenchment” made a Political Cry—Debate on
   the Tariff—Buchanan on Internal Improvements—The Interests
   of Navigation—The Cumberland Road again
   Discussed—Ineligibility of a President

                               CHAPTER VI.

 The first Election of General Jackson—Buchanan again elected         94
   to the House of Representatives—He becomes Chairman of the
   Judiciary Committee—Impeachment of Judge Peck—Buchanan
   defeats a Repeal of the 25th Section of the Judiciary
   Act—Proposed in Pennsylvania as a Candidate for the
   Vice-Presidency—Wishes to retire from Public Life—Fitness
   for great Success at the Bar

                              CHAPTER VII.

 John Randolph of Roanoke made Minister to Russia—Failure of         128
   Mr. Randolph’s Health—The Mission offered to Mr.
   Buchanan—His Mother’s Opposition to his Acceptance—Embarks
   at New York and arrives at Liverpool—Letters from
   England—Journey to St. Petersburg—Correspondence with
   Friends at Home

                              CHAPTER VIII.

 Negotiation of Treaties—Count Nesselrode—His characteristic         161
   Management of opposing Colleagues—The Emperor Nicholas—His
   sudden Announcement of his Consent to a Commercial
   Treaty—Why no Treaty concerning Maritime Rights was
   made—Complaints about the American Press—Baron Sacken’s
   imprudent Note—Buchanan skillfully exonerates his
   Government—Sensitiveness of the Emperor on the subject of

                               CHAPTER IX.

 General Jackson’s second Election—Grave public Events at            183
   Home reflected in Mr. Buchanan’s Letters from his
   Friends—Feelings of General Jackson towards the
   “Nullifiers”—Movements in Pennsylvania for electing Mr.
   Buchanan to the Senate of the United States—He makes a
   Journey to Moscow—Return to St. Petersburg—Death of his
   Mother—Singular Interview with the Emperor Nicholas at his
   Audience of Leave

                               CHAPTER X.

 Departure from St. Petersburg—Journey to Paris—Princess             217
   Lieven—Pozzo di Borgo—Duc de Broglie—General
   Lafayette—Louis Philippe—Arrival in London—Dinners at
   Prince Lieven’s and Lord Palmerston’s—Prince Talleyrand

                               CHAPTER XI.

 Mr. Buchanan returns Home—Greeting from General                     227
   Jackson—Elected to the Senate of the United States—State
   of Parties—The great Whig Leaders in the Senate—Peril of a
   War with France

                              CHAPTER XII.

 Removal of Executive Officers—Benton’s “Expunging”                  281

                              CHAPTER XIII.

 First Introduction of the Subject of Slavery in the Senate,         315
   during the Administration of Jackson—Petitions for its
   Abolition in the District of Columbia—The Right of
   Petition vindicated by Buchanan—Incendiary
   Publications—Admission of Michigan into the Union—Statuary
   for the Capitol—Affairs of Texas

                              CHAPTER XIV.

 Bill to prevent the Interference of Federal Officers with           378
   Elections—Devotion of the Followers of Jackson—The Whig
   Party less compact in consequence of the Rivalry between
   Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster—Retrospective Review of the Bank
   Question—The Specie Circular—Great Financial Disasters

                               CHAPTER XV.

 Mr. Van Buren’s Presidency—The Financial Troubles                   418
   accumulating—Remedy of the Independent Treasury—Buchanan
   on the Causes of Specie Suspension, and the Pennsylvania
   Bank of the United States—Great Political Revolution of
   1840—Buchanan declines a Seat in Mr. Van Buren’s Cabinet

                              CHAPTER XVI.

 Death of President Harrison—Breach between President Tyler          458
   and the Whigs—Tyler’s Vetoes—Buchanan’s Reply to Clay on
   the Veto Power—His Opposition to the Bankrupt Act of 1841

                              CHAPTER XVII.

 Buchanan elected to the Senate for a Third Term—Efforts of          515
   his Pennsylvania Friends to have him nominated for the
   Presidency—Motives of his Withdrawal from the Canvass—The
   Baltimore Democratic Convention of 1844 nominates Mr.
   Polk—The Old Story of “Bargain and Corruption”—Private

                             CHAPTER XVIII.

 Harriet Lane                                                        531

                              CHAPTER XIX.

 Annexation of Texas—Election of President Polk—The                  543
   Department of State accepted by Mr. Buchanan

                               CHAPTER XX.

 The Oregon Controversy—Danger of a War with                         551
   England—Negotiation for a Settlement of a Boundary—Private

                              CHAPTER XXI.

 Origin of the War with Mexico—Efforts of Mr. Polk’s                 579
   Administration to prevent it

                              CHAPTER XXII.

 Central America—The Monroe Doctrine, and the Clayton-Bulwer         619

                        LIFE OF JAMES BUCHANAN.

                               CHAPTER I.


Autobiography, when it exists, usually furnishes the most interesting
and reliable information of at least the early life of any man. Among
the papers of Mr. Buchanan, there remains a fragment of an
autobiography, without date, written however, it is supposed, many years
before his death. This sketch, for it is only a sketch, ends with the
year 1816, when he was at the age of twenty-five. I shall quote from it,
in connection with the events of this part of his life, adding such
further elucidations of its text as the other materials within my reach
enable me to give.

The following is the account which Mr. Buchanan gives of his birth and

“My father, James Buchanan, was a native of the county Donegal, in the
kingdom of Ireland. His family was respectable; but their pecuniary
circumstances were limited. He emigrated to the United States before the
date of the Definitive Treaty of Peace with Great Britain; having sailed
from —— in the brig Providence, bound for Philadelphia, in 1783. He was
then in the twenty-second year of his age. Immediately after his arrival
in Philadelphia, he proceeded to the house of his maternal uncle, Mr.
Joshua Russel, in York county. After spending a short time there, he
became an assistant in the store of Mr. John Tom, at Stony Batter, a
country place at the foot of the North Mountain, then in Cumberland (now
in Franklin county.)

“He commenced business for himself, at the same place, about the
beginning of the year 1788; and on the 16th of April, in the same year,
was married to Elizabeth Speer. My father was a man of practical
judgment, and of great industry and perseverance. He had received a good
English education, and had that kind of knowledge of mankind which
prevented him from being ever deceived in his business. With these
qualifications, with the facility of obtaining goods on credit at
Baltimore at that early period, and with the advantages of his position,
it being one of a very few spots where the people of the western
counties came with pack horses loaded with wheat to purchase and carry
home salt and other necessaries, his circumstances soon improved. He
bought the Dunwoodie farm for £1500 in 1794, and had previously
purchased the property on which he resided at the Cove Gap.

“I was born at this place on the 23d of April, 1791, being my father’s
second child. My father moved from the Cove Gap to Mercersburg, a
distance of between three and four miles, in the autumn of 1796, and
began business in Mercersburg in the autumn of 1798. For some years
before his death, which occurred on the 11th of June, 1821, he had quite
a large mercantile business, and devoted much of his time and attention
to superintending his farm, of which he was very fond. He was a man of
great native force of character. He was not only respected, but beloved
by everybody who approached him. In his youth, he held the commission of
a justice of the peace; but finding himself so overrun with the business
of this office as to interfere with his private affairs, he resigned his
commission. A short time before his death, he again received a
commission of the peace from Governor Hiester. He was a kind father, a
sincere friend, and an honest and religious man.

“My mother, considering her limited opportunities in early life, was a
remarkable woman. The daughter of a country farmer, engaged in household
employment from early life until after my father’s death, she yet found
time to read much, and to reflect deeply on what she read. She had a
great fondness for poetry, and could repeat with ease all the passages
in her favorite authors which struck her fancy. These were Milton, Pope,
Young, Cowper, and Thomson. I do not think, at least until a late period
of her life, she had ever read a criticism on any one of these authors,
and yet such was the correctness of her natural taste that she had
selected for herself, and could repeat, every passage in them which has
been admired.

“She was a sincere and devoted Christian from the time of my earliest
recollection, and had read much on the subject of theology; and what she
read once, she remembered forever. For her sons, as they successively
grew up, she was a delightful and instructive companion. She would argue
with them, and often gain the victory; ridicule them in any folly or
eccentricity; excite their ambition, by presenting to them in glowing
colors men who had been useful to their country or their kind, as
objects of imitation, and enter into all their joys and sorrows. Her
early habits of laborious industry, she could not be induced to
forego—whilst she had anything to do. My father did everything he could
to prevent her from laboring in her domestic concerns, but it was all in
vain. I have often, during the vacations at school or college, sat in
the room with her, and whilst she was (entirely from her own choice)
busily engaged in homely domestic employments, have spent hours
pleasantly and instructively in conversing with her. She was a woman of
great firmness of character and bore the afflictions of her later life
with Christian philosophy. After my father’s death, she lost her two
sons, William and George Washington, two young men of great promise, and
a favorite daughter. These afflictions withdrew her affections gradually
more and more from the things of this world—and she died on the 14th of
May, 1833, at Greensburg, in the calm but firm assurance that she was
going home to her Father and her God. It was chiefly to her influence
that her sons were indebted for a liberal education. Under Providence, I
attribute any little distinction which I may have acquired in the world
to the blessing which He conferred upon me in granting me such a

The parents of Mr. Buchanan were both of Scotch-Irish descent, and
Presbyterians. At what time this branch of the Buchanan family emigrated
from Scotland to Ireland is not known; but John Buchanan, the
grandfather of the President, who was a farmer in the county of Donegal
in Ireland, married Jane Russel, about the middle of the last century.
She was a daughter of Samuel Russel, who was also a farmer of
Scotch-Presbyterian descent in the same county. James Buchanan, their
son, and father of the President, was brought up by his mother’s
relatives. Elizabeth Speer, the President’s mother, was the only
daughter of James Speer, who was also of Scotch-Presbyterian ancestry,
and who emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1756. James Speer and his wife
(Mary Patterson) settled at first on a farm ten miles from Lancaster,
and afterwards at the foot of the South Mountain between Chambersburg
and Gettysburg. It is told in some memoranda which now lie before me,
that in 1779, James Speer left the “Covenanted Church,” on account of
difficulties with Mr. Dobbins, his pastor, and was afterwards admitted
to full communion in the Presbyterian congregation under the care of the
Rev. John Black. This incident sufficiently indicates the kind of
religious atmosphere in which Mrs. Buchanan grew up; and the letters of
both parents to their son, from which I shall have occasion to quote
frequently, afford abundant evidence of that deep and peculiar piety
which characterized the sincere Christians of their denomination. They
were married on the 16th of April, 1788, when Mrs. Buchanan was just
twenty-one, and her husband twenty-seven. Eleven children were born to
them between 1789 and 1811. James, the future President, was born April
23d, 1791.

Of his early education and his college life, he gives this account:

“After having received a tolerably good English education, I studied the
Latin and Greek languages at a school in Mercersburg. It was first kept
by the Rev. James R. Sharon, then a student of divinity with Dr. John
King, and afterwards by a Mr. McConnell and Dr. Jesse Magaw, then a
student of medicine, and subsequently my brother-in-law. I was sent to
Dickinson College in the fall of 1807, where I entered the junior class.

“The college was in a wretched condition; and I have often regretted
that I had not been sent to some other institution. There was no
efficient discipline, and the young men did pretty much as they pleased.
To be a sober, plodding, industrious youth was to incur the ridicule of
the mass of the students. Without much natural tendency to become
dissipated, and chiefly from the example of others, and in order to be
considered a clever and a spirited youth, I engaged in every sort of
extravagance and mischief in which the greatest proficients of the
college indulged. Unlike the rest of this class, however, I was always a
tolerably hard student, and never was deficient in my college exercises.

“A circumstance occurred, after I had been a year at college, which made
a strong and lasting impression upon me. During the September vacation,
in the year 1808, on a Sabbath morning, whilst I was sitting in the room
with my father, a letter was brought to him. He opened it, and read it,
and I observed that his countenance fell. He then handed it to me and
left the room, and I do not recollect that he ever afterwards spoke to
me on the subject of it. It was from Dr. Davidson, the Principal of
Dickinson College. He stated that, but for the respect which the faculty
entertained for my father, I would have been expelled from college on
account of disorderly conduct. That they had borne with me as best they
could until that period; but that they would not receive me again, and
that the letter was written to save him the mortification of sending me
back and having me rejected. Mortified to the soul, I at once determined
upon my course. Dr. John King was at the time pastor of the congregation
to which my parents belonged. He came to that congregation shortly after
the Revolution, and continued to be its pastor until his death. He had
either married or baptized all its members. He participated in their
joys as well as their sorrows, and had none of the gloomy bigotry which
too often passes in these days for superior sanctity. He was, I believe,
a trustee of the college, and enjoyed great and extensive influence
wherever he was known. To him I applied with the greatest confidence in
my extremity. He gave me a gentle lecture—the more efficient on that
account. He then proposed to me, that if I would pledge my honor to him
to behave better at college than I had done, he felt such confidence in
me that he would pledge himself to Dr. Davidson on my behalf, and he did
not doubt that I would be permitted to return. I cheerfully complied
with this condition; Dr. King arranged the matter, and I returned to
college, without any questions being asked; and afterwards conducted
myself in such a manner as, at least, to prevent any formal complaint.
At the public examination, previous to the commencement, I answered
without difficulty every question which was propounded to me. At that
time there were two honors conferred by the college. It was the custom
for each of the two societies to present a candidate, and the faculty
decided which of them should have the first honor, and the second was
conferred upon the other candidate as a matter of course. I had set my
heart upon obtaining the highest, and the society to which I belonged
unanimously presented me as their candidate. As I believed that this
society, from the superior scholarship of its members, was entitled to
both, on my motion we presented two candidates to the faculty. The
consequence was, that they rejected me altogether, gave the first honor
to the candidate of the opposite society, and the second to Mr. Robert
Laverty, now of Chester county, assigning as a reason for rejecting my
claims that it would have a bad tendency to confer an honor of the
college upon a student who had shown so little respect as I had done for
the rules of the college and for the professors.

“I have scarcely ever been so much mortified at any occurrence of my
life as at this disappointment, nor has friendship ever been manifested
towards me in a more striking manner than by all the members of the
society to which I belonged. Mr. Laverty, at once, in the most kind
manner, offered to yield me the second honor, which, however, I declined
to accept. The other members of the society belonging to the senior
class would have united with me in refusing to speak at the approaching
commencement, but I was unwilling to place them in this situation on my
account, and more especially as several of them were designed for the
ministry. I held out myself for some time, but at last yielded on
receiving a kind communication from the professors. I left college,
however, feeling but little attachment towards the Alma Mater.”

In regard to the danger of his expulsion from the college, which Mr.
Buchanan has frankly recorded in his autobiographical fragment, I find
no other reference to it. But I have seen in the note-books of his
studies and in the notes which he kept of lectures that he attended,
abundant proof that he was, as he says, “a tolerably hard student.” He
seems to have had a strong propensity to logic and metaphysics, and of
these studies there are copious traces in his own handwriting. The
incident which he relates concerning his disappointment in not receiving
one of the highest of the college honors at his graduating
“commencement,” is thus touched upon in a letter from his father:

                                     MERCERSBURG, September 6, 1809.


Yours is at hand (though without date) which mortifies us very much for
your disappointment, in being deprived of both honors of the college,
especially when your prospect was so fair for one of them, and more so
when it was done by the professors who are acknowledged by the world to
be the best judges of the talents and merits of the several students
under their care. I am not disposed to censure your conduct in being
ambitious to have the first honors of the college; but as it was thought
that Mr. F. and yourself were best entitled to them, you and he ought to
have compounded the matter so as to have left it to the disposition of
your several societies, and been contented with their choice. The
partiality you complain of in the professors is, no doubt, an unjust
thing in them, and perhaps it has proceeded from some other cause than
that which you are disposed to ascribe to them.

Often when people have the greatest prospects of temporal honor and
aggrandizement, they are all blasted in a moment by a fatality connected
with men and things; and no doubt the designs of Providence may be seen
very conspicuously in our disappointments, in order to teach us our
dependency on Him who knows all events, and they ought to humble our
pride and self-sufficiency...... I think it was a very partial decision,
and calculated to hurt your feelings. Be that as it will, I hope you
will have fortitude enough to surmount these things. Your great
consolation is in yourself, and if you can say your right was taken from
you by a partial spirit and given to those to whom it ought not to be
given, you must for the present submit. The more you know of mankind,
the more you will distrust them. It is said the knowledge of mankind and
the distrust of them are reciprocally connected......

I approve of your conduct in being prepared with an oration, and if upon
delivery it be good sense, well spoken, and your own composition, your
audience will think well of it whether it be spoken first, or last, or

We anticipate the pleasure of seeing you shortly, when I hope all these
little clouds will be dissipated.

               From your loving and affectionate father,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

Following Mr. Buchanan’s sketch of his early life, we come to the period
immediately after he graduated from Dickinson College.

I came to Lancaster to study law with the late Mr. Hopkins, in the month
of December, 1809, and was admitted to practice in November, 1812. I
determined that if severe application would make me a good lawyer, I
should not fail in this particular; and I can say, with truth, that I
have never known a harder student than I was at that period of my life.
I studied law, and nothing but law, or what was essentially connected
with it. I took pains to understand thoroughly, as far as I was capable,
everything which I read; and in order to fix it upon my memory and give
myself the habit of extempore speaking, I almost every evening took a
lonely walk, and embodied the ideas which I had acquired during the day
in my own language. This gave me a habit of extempore speaking, and that
not merely words but things. I derived great improvement from this

It would seem that young Buchanan remained at home with his parents
after he had graduated until the month of December, when he went to
Lancaster and entered himself as a student at law, in the office of Mr.
Hopkins. The following letters from his parents give all that I am able
to glean respecting the period of his law pupilage, and the choice of a
permanent residence after he had been admitted to practice, which was,
it seems, in November, 1812.

                           [FROM HIS FATHER.]

                                                     March 12, 1810.

...... I am very glad to hear you are so well pleased with Lancaster,
and with the study of the law.

...... I hope you will guard against the temptations that may offer
themselves in this way, or any other, knowing that without religion all
other things are as trifles, and will soon pass away...... Your young
acquaintances often talk of you, and with respect and esteem. Go on with
your studies, and endeavor to be eminent in your profession.

Mr. Buchanan was admitted to the bar in the year which saw the
commencement of the war with Great Britain, under the Presidency of Mr.
Madison. His early political principles were those of the Federalists,
who disapproved of the war. Yet, as the following passages in his
autobiography show, he was not backward in his duty as a citizen:[1]

The first public address I ever made before the people was in 1814, a
short time after the capture of Washington by the British. In common
with the Federalists, generally, of the Middle and Southern States,
whilst I disapproved of the declaration of war under the circumstances
in which it was made, yet I thought it was the duty of every patriot to
defend the country, whilst the war was raging, against a foreign enemy.
The capture of Washington lighted up a flame of patriotism which
pervaded the whole of Pennsylvania. A public meeting was called in
Lancaster for the purpose of adopting measures to obtain volunteers to
march for the defence of Baltimore. On that occasion I addressed the
people, and was among the first to register my name as a volunteer. We
immediately formed a company of dragoons, and elected the late Judge
Henry Shippen our captain. We marched to Baltimore, and served under the
command of Major Charles Sterret Ridgely, until we were honorably
discharged. This company of dragoons was the _avant courier_ of the
large force which rushed from Pennsylvania to the defence of Baltimore.

Mr. Buchanan’s entrance into public life is thus described by himself:

In October, 1814, I was elected a member of the House of
Representatives, in the Legislature, from the county of Lancaster. The
same principles which guided my conduct in sustaining the war,
notwithstanding my opposition to its declaration, governed my course
after I became a member of the Legislature. An attack was threatened
against the city of Philadelphia. The General Government was nearly
reduced to a state of bankruptcy, and could scarcely raise sufficient
money to maintain the regular troops on the remote frontiers of the
country. Pennsylvania was obliged to rely upon her own energies for the
defence, and the people generally, of all parties, were ready to do
their utmost in the cause.

Two plans were proposed. The one was what was called the Conscription
Bill, and similar to that which had been rejected by Congress, reported
in the [State] Senate by Mr. Nicholas Biddle, by which it was proposed
to divide the white male inhabitants of the State above the age of
eighteen into classes of twenty-two men each, and to designate one man
by lot from the numbers between the ages of eighteen and forty-five of
each class, who should serve one year, each class being compelled to
raise a sum not exceeding two hundred dollars, as a bounty to the
conscript. This army was to be paid and maintained at the expense of the
State, and its estimated cost would have been between three and three
and one-half million of dollars per annum. The officers were to be
appointed by the Governor, by and with the advice and consent of the

The other was to raise six regiments under the authority of the State,
to serve for three years, or during the war, and to pass efficient
volunteer and militia laws.

          [_Here the narrative changes to the third person._]

“On the 1st of February, 1815, Mr. Buchanan delivered his sentiments in
regard to the proper mode of defending the Commonwealth, on the bill
entitled ‘An act for the encouragement of volunteers for the defence of
this Commonwealth.’ He said: ‘Since, then, the Congress have deserted us
in our time of need, there is no alternative but either to protect
ourselves by some efficient measures, or surrender up that independence
which has been purchased by the blood of our forefathers. No American
can hesitate which of these alternatives ought to be adopted. The
invading enemy must be expelled from our shores; he must be taught to
respect the rights of freedom.’

“Again, speaking of the Conscription Bill, he said: ‘This law is
calculated to be very unjust and very unequal in its effects. Whilst it
will operate as a conscription law upon the poor man in the western
parts of the State, where property is not in danger, it will be but a
militia law with the rich man in the eastern part of the State, whose
property it contemplates defending. The individuals in each class are,
to be sure, to pay the two hundred dollars in proportion to their
comparative wealth, as a bounty to the substitute or conscript. It will,
therefore, be just in its operation among the individuals composing each
class, but how will it be with respect to entire classes? Twenty-two men
in the city of Philadelphia, whose united fortunes would be worth two
million dollars, would be compelled to pay no more than twenty-two men
in the western country, who may not be worth the one-thousandth part of
that sum.’

“After Mr. Buchanan had stated that he would have voted for the
Enlistment Bill, had he not been necessarily absent when it passed the
House, he said: ‘After all, I must confess, that in my opinion an
efficient volunteer and militia bill, together with the troops which can
be raised under the Voluntary Enlistment Bill, will be amply sufficient
for the defence of the city of Philadelphia. We need not be afraid to
trust to the patriotism or courage of the people of this country when
they are invaded. Let them have good militia officers, and they will
soon be equal to any troops of the world. Have not the volunteers and
militia on the Niagara frontier fought in such a manner as to merit the
gratitude of the nation? Is it to be supposed that the same spirit of
patriotism would animate the man who is dragged out by a conscription
law to defend his country, that the volunteer or militiaman would feel?
Let us, then, pass an efficient militia law, and the Volunteer Bill
which is now before us. Let us hold out sufficient inducement to our
citizens to turn out, as volunteers. Let their patriotism be stimulated
by self-interest, and I have no doubt that in the day of trial there
will be armies of freemen in the field sufficiently large for our
protection. Your State will then be defended at a trifling comparative
expense, the liberties of the people will be preserved, and their
willingness to bear new burdens be continued.’

“The bill having passed the Senate, was negatived in the House, on the
3d of February, 1815, by the decisive vote of 51 to 36. It was entitled
‘An act to raise a military force for the defence of this Commonwealth.’
The Senate and the House thus differed in regard to the best mode of
defending the Commonwealth; the one being friendly to the Conscription
Bill, and the other to the Voluntary Enlistment and Volunteer Bill. All
agreed upon the necessity of adopting efficient means for this purpose.
Before any final action was had upon the subject, the news of peace
arrived, and was officially communicated by Governor Snyder to the
Legislature on the 17th February, 1815.”

So open and decided was I in my course in favor of defending the
country, notwithstanding my disapproval of the declaration of war, that
I distinctly recollect that the late William Beale, the shrewd,
strong-minded, and influential Democratic Senator from Mifflin county,
called upon me, and urged me strongly during the session to change my
[political] name, and be called a Democrat, stating that I would have no
occasion to change my principles. In that event, he said he would
venture to predict that, should I live, I would become President of the
United States. He was mistaken, for although I was friendly to a
vigorous prosecution of the war, I was far from being a “Democrat” in

                           [FROM HIS FATHER.]

                                                 September 22, 1814.


I received your letter of the 9th ult. from Baltimore, which stated that
you were then honorably discharged. This news was very gratifying, as at
that moment we received accounts that the British were making their
attack on Baltimore, both by sea and land, and consequently our
forebodings with respect to your fate were highly wound up......

You say you are in nomination for the Assembly. I am not certain that it
will be to your advantage, as it will lead you off from the study and
practice of the law. If by your industry and application you could
become eminent at the bar, that would be preferable to being partly a
politician and partly a lawyer. However, you must now be directed by
circumstances and the counsel of your friends.

...... The Assembly has passed a law for the benefit of the poor, which
in fact prevents them from paying any debts, as they hold all under
cover of the reserve made them in the law. So much for popularity at the
expense of justice.

                                                   October 21, 1814.


I received yours by Mr. Evans, informing me you were elected to the
Assembly. The circumstances of your being so popular amongst your
neighbors as to give you a majority over Isaac Wayne, who, I suppose,
was one of the highest on your ticket, is very gratifying to me, and I
hope your conduct will continue to merit their approbation. But above
all earthly enjoyments, endeavor to merit the esteem of heaven; and that
Divine Providence who has done so much for you heretofore, will never
abandon you in the hour of trial. Perhaps your going to the Legislature
may be to your advantage, and it may be otherwise. I hope you will make
the best of the thing now. The feelings of parents are always alive to
the welfare of their children, and I am fearful of this taking you from
the bar at a time when perhaps you may feel it most......

There is now every prospect of a continuation of the war. The terms
offered us by the British are such that no true American could comply
with, or submit to them...... News has just come to this place that Lord
Hill has arrived with 16,000 men.

                          From your loving father,

                                                               J. B.

                                                   January 20, 1815.

...... I am glad to find you are well pleased at being a member of the
Legislature. Perhaps it may have the effect you mention, that of
increasing your business hereafter. I am glad to hear that you mean to
proceed with caution, and speak only when you are well prepared for the
subject you mean to speak upon. You are young, consequently deficient in
experience; therefore you must supply that defect by watchfulness and
application, never forgetting that every gift you may possess flows from
that Being who has always been your friend, and will continue to be so,
if you are in your duty.

                                                  February 24, 1815.


I expect you are now engaged in repealing many of those laws which have
been enacted for prosecuting the war with vigor. As the olive-branch has
been presented to us, it will change all our plans, and we will again be
permitted to return in peace to our different occupations, and ought to
thank heaven for the blessing. This night we are to illuminate this
place in consequence of peace. Those who have seen the treaty say it is
dishonorable to America; that there are none of those points gained for
which we declared war.

                                                      June 23, 1815.

...... You appear to hesitate about going to the Legislature again, and
I am both unable and unwilling to advise you on that point; but as it
appears your business has not decreased by being there last winter, I
would have no objection to your going another session, as it would
afford you another opportunity of improvement, and perhaps the people of
your district may some time elect you to Congress. Could you not get an
active young man as a student that could keep your office open in your
absence, and do a little business for you?......

You may expect to have many difficulties and dangers to encounter in
your passage through life, especially as your situation becomes
enviable; but I hope you will always depend upon the protection of that
kind Providence, who has dealt so kindly with you, to shield you from
the shafts of malicious enemies.

Your mother and the family send their kind love to you, and believe me
your loving father,

                                                               J. B.

The next event in his life of which I find any mention in his
autobiography, was the delivery of an oration before the Washington
Society of Lancaster, July 4, 1815, of which he speaks as follows:

On the 4th of July, 1815, I delivered the oration before the Washington
Association of Lancaster, which has been the subject of much criticism.
There are many sentiments in this oration which I regret; at the same
time it cannot be denied that the country was wholly unprepared for war,
at the period of its declaration, and the attempt to carry it on by
means of loans, without any resort to taxation, had well nigh made the
Government bankrupt. There is, however, a vein of feeling running
throughout the whole oration—of which, as I look back to it, I may be
excused for being proud—which always distinguishes between the conduct
of the administration and the necessity for defending the country.
Besides, it will be recollected that this oration was not delivered
until after the close of the war. I said: “Glorious it has been, in the
highest degree, to the American character, but disgraceful in the
extreme to the administration. When the individual States discovered
that they were abandoned by the General Government, whose duty it was to
protect them, the fortitude of their citizens arose with their
misfortunes. The moment we were invaded, the genius of freedom inspired
their souls. They rushed upon their enemies with a hallowed fury which
the hireling soldiers of Britain could never feel. They taught our foe
that the soil of freedom would always be the grave of its invaders.”

I spoke with pride and exultation of the exploits of the navy, and also
of the regular army during the last year of the war. The former “has
risen triumphant above its enemies at home, and has made the proud
mistress of the ocean tremble. The people are now convinced that a navy
is their best defence.”[2]

In the conclusion there is a passage concerning foreign influence which
must be approved by all. “Foreign influence has been, in every age, the
curse of Republics. Her jaundiced eye sees all things in false colors.
The thick atmosphere of prejudice, by which she is forever surrounded,
excludes from her sight the light of reason; whilst she worships the
nations which she favors for their very crimes, she curses the enemies
of that nation, even their virtues. In every age she has marched before
the enemies of her country, ‘proclaiming peace, when there was no
peace,’ and lulling its defenders into fatal security, whilst the iron
hand of despotism has been aiming a death-blow at their liberties.” And
again, “We are separated from the nations of Europe by an immense ocean.
We are still more disconnected from them by a different form of
government, and by the enjoyment of true liberty. Why, then, should we
injure ourselves by taking part in the ambitious contests of foreign
despots and kings?”

                           [FROM HIS FATHER.]

                                                      July 14, 1815.

No doubt you will have many political enemies to criticise your oration,
but you must take the consequences now. It is a strong mark of
approbation to have so many copies of it published. I hope to see one of

I am busily engaged with my harvest. I am very glad I did not purchase
goods as I proposed, as they have fallen greatly in price.

                                                  September 1, 1815.

...... Myself and the family are very anxious to see you, yet I am glad
that your business is so good that you cannot, with propriety, leave it,
yet you must always make your calculations to come as often as you can.
Have you agreed to your nomination for the Legislature another session?
You know your own situation best. If you think proper to take another
seat, it has my approbation. I have read your oration, and I think it
well done. Perhaps it is a little too severe, and may hurt the feelings
of some of your friends, who have been friendly, independent of
politics. I have lent it to a few people who have asked for it, and they
all speak well of your performance.

                                                      Oct. 19, 1815.

...... It appears from the Lancaster Journal, you are again elected. I
wish you may end the next session with the same popularity as a
statesman that you gained in the last session.

Mr. Buchanan’s own account of his second term of service in the
Legislature is thus given:

I was again elected a member of the House of Representatives in the
State Legislature in October, 1815. The currency at that period was in
great disorder throughout the Middle, Western, and Southern States, in
consequence of the suspension of specie payments occasioned by the war.
On the 20th of December, 1815, a resolution was adopted by the House of
Representatives, instructing the Committee on Banks, “to inquire into
the causes of the suspension of specie payments by the banks within this
Commonwealth; and also, whether any or what measures ought to be adopted
by the Legislature on this subject.” This committee was composed of Mr.
McEuen, of the city; Milliken, of Mifflin; Stewart, of Fayette; and
Dysart, of Crawford. On the 12th of January, 1816, Mr. McEuen made a
report which concluded with a recommendation that a law should be
passed, obliging the banks to pay interest on balances to each other
monthly, at the rate of six per cent. per annum, after the 1st of March;
also, obliging the banks refusing to pay specie for their notes after
the 1st of January, 1817, to pay interest at the rate of eighteen per
cent. per annum from the time of demand; and forfeiting the charters of
such banks as should refuse to redeem their notes in specie after the
1st of January, 1818. A bare majority of the committee had concurred in
the report. The minority had requested me to prepare a substitute for
it, and offer it as soon as the report was read. This substitute
concluded with a resolution, “that it is inexpedient at this time for
the Legislature to adopt any compulsory measures relative to the banks.”
The original report and the substitute were postponed, and no action was
ever had afterwards upon either.

The substitute states the following to have been the causes of the
suspension of specie payments in Pennsylvania:

1. The blockade by the enemy of the Middle and Southern seaports, the
impossibility of getting their productions to market, and the consequent
necessity imposed upon them to pay in specie to New England the price of
the foreign merchandise imported into that portion of the Union.

2. The large loans made by banks and individuals of this and the
adjacent States to the Government to sustain the war, and the small
comparative loans made in New England, which were paid by an extravagant
issue of bank notes. These latter bore but a small proportion to the
money expended there. To make up this deficiency, the specie of the
Middle and Southern States was drawn from the vaults of these banks, and
was used by the New England people in commerce, or smuggled to the

3. The great demand for specie in England.

4. The recent establishment of a number of new banks throughout the
interior of Pennsylvania, which drew their capital chiefly from the
banks in Philadelphia and thereby weakened them, compelled them first to
suspend specie payments. These new banks, in self-defence, were
therefore obliged to suspend.

5. The immense importation of foreign goods at the close of the war, and
the necessity of paying for them in specie, have continued the

During this session, and whilst the debates on the subject were
proceeding in Congress, I changed my impression on the subject of a Bank
of the United States, and became decidedly hostile to such an
institution. In this opinion I have never since wavered, and although I
have invested much of the profits of my profession in stocks, and was
often advised by friends to buy stock in this bank, I always declined
becoming a stockholder. Whilst the bill was pending in Congress, I urged
Mr. Holgate and other influential Democrats in the House to offer
instructions against the measure, but could not prevail with them. I
recollect Mr. H. told me that it was unnecessary, as our Democratic
Senators in Congress would certainly vote against the measure without
any instructions.

Mr. Buchanan appears to have left the Legislature at the end of the
session of 1815–16, with a fixed determination to devote himself
exclusively to the practice of his profession. He says:

After my second session in the Legislature, I applied myself with
unremitting application to the practice of the law. My practice in
Lancaster and some of the adjoining counties was extensive, laborious,
and lucrative. It increased rapidly in value from the time I ceased to
be a member of the Legislature. During the year ending on the 1st of
April, 1819, I received in cash for professional services $7,915.92,
which was, down to that time, the best year I ever experienced.[3]

Among his professional employments at this period, I find the following
modest allusion to a cause in which he gained great distinction:

During the session of the Legislature of 1816–17 I alone defended the
Hon. Walter Franklin and his associates on articles of impeachment
against them before the Senate; and during the session of 1817–18, I
defended the same judges on other articles, and had for associates Mr.
Condy and Mr. Hopkins. I never felt the responsibility of my position
more sensibly than, when a young man between 25 and 26 years of age, I
undertook alone to defend Judge Franklin; and although he was anxious I
should, again the next year, undertake his cause without assistance, yet
I insisted upon the employment of older and more experienced counsel.

As the impeachment case referred to in the close of this sketch was the
occasion of Mr. Buchanan’s early distinction at the bar, a brief account
of it may be here given. It was a prosecution instituted from political
motives, and was a lamentable exhibition of party asperity. Judge
Franklin was the president judge of the court of common pleas for a
judicial district composed of the counties of Lancaster, Lebanon, and
York. His associates were not lawyers. At a period of great political
excitement, which had continued since the close of the war with Great
Britain, there arose a litigation in Judge Franklin’s court which grew
out of one of the occurrences of the war. In July, 1814, the President
had made a requisition on the Governor of Pennsylvania for the services
of certain regiments of militia. The troops were called and mustered
into the Federal service. Houston, a citizen of Lancaster, refused to
serve; he was tried by a court-martial, held under the authority of the
State, convicted, and sentenced to pay a fine. For this he brought an
action in the common pleas against the members of the court-martial and
its officer who had collected the fine. On the trial, Judge Franklin
ruled that when the militia had been mustered into the service of the
United States, the control of the State and its power to punish were
ended. The plaintiff, therefore, recovered a verdict. Judge Franklin was
subjected to this impeachment for ruling a point of law on which the
Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States afterwards differed.

In a diary kept by a gentleman who watched this impeachment with the
deepest interest, I find the following allusion to Mr. Buchanan’s

“This argument was conducted with great ingenuity, eloquence, and
address. It made a deep impression. It will tend very much to raise and
extend the reputation of Mr. Buchanan, and will have, I hope, a
favorable effect upon his future prospects as a lawyer and a

The impression produced by Mr. Buchanan’s argument was so strong, that
the managers of the impeachment asked for an adjournment before they
replied to it. His defence was made upon the sound doctrine that
“impeachment” of a judge for a legal opinion, when no crime or
misdemeanor has been committed, is a constitutional solecism. The
respondent was acquitted, and his advocate acquired a great amount of
reputation for so young a man.

With an honorable and distinguished professional career thus opening
before him, a favorite in society both from his talents and his
character, young, high-spirited and full of energy, it seemed that
happiness had been provided for him by his own merits and a kind
Providence. But there now occurred an episode in his life which cast
upon him a never-ending sorrow. He became engaged to be married to a
young lady in Lancaster, who has been described to me, by persons who
knew her, as a very beautiful girl, of singularly attractive and gentle
disposition, but retiring and sensitive. Her father, Robert Coleman,
Esq., a wealthy citizen of Lancaster, entirely approved of the
engagement. After this connection had existed for some time, she
suddenly wrote a note to her lover and asked him to release her from the
engagement. There is no reason to believe that their mutual feelings had
in any degree changed. He could only reply that if it was her wish to
put an end to their engagement, he must submit. This occurred in the
latter part of the summer of 1819. The young lady died very suddenly,
while on a visit to Philadelphia, on the 9th of the December following,
in the twenty-third year of her age. Her remains were brought to her
father’s house in Lancaster, on the next Saturday, just one week from
the day on which she left home. “The funeral,” says the diary already
quoted from, “took place the next day, and was attended by a great
number of the inhabitants, who appeared to feel a deep sympathy with the
family on this distressing occasion.”

From the same source, I transcribe a little obituary notice, which was
published in a Lancaster paper on the 11th of December, and which the
diary states was written by Mr. Buchanan:

“Departed this life, on Thursday morning last, in the twenty-third year
of her age, while on a visit to her friends in the city of Philadelphia,
Miss Anne C. Coleman, daughter of Robert Coleman, Esquire, of this city.
It rarely falls to our lot to shed a tear over the mortal remains of one
so much and so deservedly beloved as was the deceased. She was
everything which the fondest parent or fondest friend could have wished
her to be. Although she was young and beautiful, and accomplished, and
the smiles of fortune shone upon her, yet her native modesty and worth
made her unconscious of her own attractions. Her heart was the seat of
all the softer virtues which ennoble and dignify the character of woman.
She has now gone to a world where in the bosom of her God she will be
happy with congenial spirits. May the memory of her virtues be ever
green in the hearts of her surviving friends. May her mild spirit, which
on earth still breathes peace and good-will, be their guardian angel to
preserve them from the faults to which she was ever a stranger—

             “‘The spider’s most attenuated thread
             Is cord, is cable, to man’s tender tie
             On earthly bliss—it breaks at every breeze.’”

The following letter, written by Mr. Buchanan to the father of the young
lady, is all that remains of written evidence, to attest the depth of
his attachment to her:


                                       LANCASTER, December 10, 1819.


You have lost a child, a dear, dear child. I have lost the only earthly
object of my affections, without whom life now presents to me a dreary
blank. My prospects are all cut off, and I feel that my happiness will
be buried with her in the grave. It is now no time for explanation, but
the time will come when you will discover that she, as well as I, have
been much abused. God forgive the authors of it. My feelings of
resentment against them, whoever they may be, are buried in the dust. I
have now one request to make, and, for the love of God and of your dear,
departed daughter whom I loved infinitely more than any other human
being could love, deny me not. Afford me the melancholy pleasure of
seeing her body before its interment. I would not for the world be
denied this request.

I might make another, but, from the misrepresentations which must have
been made to you, I am almost afraid. I would like to follow her remains
to the grave as a mourner. I would like to convince the world, and I
hope yet to convince you, that she was infinitely dearer to me than
life. I may sustain the shock of her death, but I feel that happiness
has fled from me forever. The prayer which I make to God without ceasing
is, that I yet may be able to show my veneration for the memory of my
dear departed saint, by my respect and attachment for her surviving

May Heaven bless you, and enable you to bear the shock with the
fortitude of a Christian.

            I am, forever, your sincere and grateful friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

There is among Mr. Buchanan’s papers a letter written to him by one of
his friends, shortly after the death of Miss Coleman, which shows how
this affliction immediately affected him, and how it was regarded by
persons of high social standing in Pennsylvania, who were not prejudiced
by erroneous beliefs in regard to the circumstances which led to the
breaking of the engagement.

                    [AMOS ELLMAKER TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                                  December 20, 1819.


I hear you have left Lancaster, and have not heard where you have gone
to; but I take it for granted the absence will be short. I am writing, I
know not why, and perhaps had better not. I write only to speak of the
awful visitation of Providence that has fallen upon you, and how deeply
I feel it. The thought of your situation has scarcely been absent from
my mind ten days. I trust your restoration to your philosophy and
courage, and to the elasticity of spirits natural to most young men. Yet
time, the sovereign cure of all these, must intervene before much good
can be done. The sun will shine again—though a man enveloped in gloom
always thinks the darkness is to be eternal. Do you remember the Spanish
anecdote? A lady, who had lost a favorite child, remained for months
sunk in sullen sorrow and despair. Her confessor, one morning, visited
her, and found her, as usual, immersed in gloom and grief. “What!” says
he; “have you not forgiven God Almighty?” She rose, exerted herself,
joined the world again, and became useful to herself and friends.

Might I venture to hint advice? It would be to give full scope (contrary
to common advice on similar occasions), I say to give full vent and
unrestrained license to the feelings and thoughts natural in the case
for a time—which time may be a week, two weeks, three weeks, as nature
dictates—without scarcely a small effort during that time to rise above
the misfortune; then, when this time is past, to rouse, to banish
depressing thoughts, as far as possible, and engage most industriously
in business. My opinion is that too early an effort to shake off a very
heavy affliction is often, if not always, dangerous. An early effort is
futile, and worse—an unavailing struggle renders the mind cowardly, and
sinks the spirits deeper in gloom. The true way to conquer is to run
away at first. The storm which uproots the firmest oak passes harmlessly
over the willow.

Forgive all this talk; it opens in my own bosom a wound which a dozen
years have not cicatrized, and brings to my recollection a dark period
of my own days, the remembrance of which yet chills me with horror.

Two of your cases here may be tried. If they are, I will endeavor to
assist your colleague, Mr. Elder, for you, and for your benefit. This is
our court week for the civil list......

Mrs. E—— talks much of you, and if she knew I was writing, would have me
add her kindest message—indicative of the interest she feels. Farewell.

                                                      AMOS ELLMAKER.

In the course of Mr. Buchanan’s long subsequent political career, this
incident in his early life was often alluded to in partisan newspapers,
and in that species of literature called “campaign documents,”
accompanied by many perversions and misrepresentations. These
publications are each and all unworthy of notice. On one occasion, after
he had retired to Wheatland, and when he had passed the age of seventy,
he was shown by a friend a newspaper article, misrepresenting, as usual,
the details of this affair. He then said, with deep emotion, that there
were papers and relics which he had religiously preserved, then in a
sealed package in a place of deposit in the city of New York, which
would explain the trivial origin of this separation.[4] His executors
found these papers inclosed and sealed separately from all others, and
with a direction upon them in his handwriting, that they were to be
destroyed without being read. They obeyed the injunction, and burnt the
package without breaking the seal. It happened, however, that the
original of the letter addressed by Mr. Buchanan to the young lady’s
father, before her funeral, was not contained in this package. It was
found in his private depositaries at Wheatland; and it came there in
consequence of the fact that it was returned by the father unread and

It is now known that the separation of the lovers originated in a
misunderstanding, on the part of the lady, of a very small matter,
exaggerated by giddy and indiscreet tongues, working on a peculiarly
sensitive nature. Such a separation, the commonest of occurrences, would
have ended, in the ordinary course, in reconciliation, when the parties
met, if death had not suddenly snatched away one of the sufferers, and
left the other to a life-long grief. But under the circumstances, I feel
bound to be governed by the spirit of Mr. Buchanan’s written instruction
to his executors, and not to go into the details of a story which show
that the whole occurrence was chargeable on the folly of others, and not
on either of the two whose interests were involved.

Among the few survivors of the circle to which this young lady belonged,
the remembrance of her sudden death is still fresh in aged hearts. The
estrangement of the lovers was but one of those common occurrences that
are perpetually verifying the saying, hackneyed by everlasting
repetition, that “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

But it ran, in this case, pure and unbroken in the heart of the
survivor, through a long and varied life. It became a grief that could
not be spoken of; to which only the most distant allusion could be made;
a sacred, unceasing sorrow, buried deep in the breast of a man who was
formed for domestic joys; hidden beneath manners that were most
engaging, beneath strong social tendencies, and a chivalrous
old-fashioned deference to women of all ages and all claims. His
peculiar and reverential demeanor towards the sex, never varied by rank,
or station, or individual attractions, was doubtless in a large degree
caused by the tender memory of what he had found, or fancied, in her
whom he had lost in his early days by such a cruel fate. If her death
had not prevented their marriage, it is probable that a purely
professional and domestic life would have filled up the measure alike of
his happiness and his ambition. It is certain that this occurrence
prevented him from ever marrying, and impelled him again into public
life, after he had once resolved to quit it. Soon after this
catastrophe, he was offered a nomination to a seat in Congress. He did
not suppose that he could be elected, and did not much desire to be. But
he was strongly urged to accept the candidacy, and finally consented,
chiefly because he needed an innocent excitement that would sometimes
distract him from the grief that was destined never to leave him.[5]
Great and uninterrupted, however, as was his political and social
success, he lived and died a widowed and a childless man. Fortunately
for him, a sister’s child, left an orphan at an early age, whom he
educated with the wisest care, filled to him the place of a daughter as
nearly and tenderly as such a relative could supply that want, adorning
with womanly accomplishments and virtues the high public stations to
which he was eventually called.


Footnote 1:

  Under the date of September 13, 1813, Mr. Buchanan’s father writes to
  him: “Yesterday the fast day was kept here pretty unanimously. Mr.
  Elliot gave us an excellent sermon, and spoke of the war as a
  judgment, and the greatest calamity that could befall a people. He
  showed it to be worse than the famine or the pestilence. In the two
  latter cases, he said God acted as the immediate agent: in that of war
  he acted by subordinate agents; therefore the calamity was the
  greater.” This was the tone of many Federalist sermons.

Footnote 2:

  “There is extant, according to the best of my recollection in the
  National Intelligencer, though not in Everett’s edition of his works,
  a speech of Mr. Webster in 1814, in the House of Representatives, on
  the ‘Conduct of the War.’ It is very severe on the military
  operations, especially in Canada (which no doubt, as a general thing,
  deserved all that was said of them), but he dwells with pride on our
  naval exploits. ‘However,’ says he, ‘we may differ as to what has been
  done or attempted on land, our differences cease at the water’s
  edge.’” (Note by Mr. Buchanan.)

Footnote 3:

  I find a memorandum in Mr. Buchanan’s handwriting of his professional
  emoluments during his years of active practice.

                      1813     $938│1821–2  $11,297
                      1814   $1,096│  1823   $7,243
                      1815   $2,246│  1825   $4,521
                      1816   $3,174│  1826   $2,419
                      1817   $5,379│  1827   $2,570
                      1818   $7,915│  1828   $2,008
                      1819   $7,092│  1829   $3,362
                      1820   $5,665│

Footnote 4:

  These and other papers of importance were sent by Mr. Buchanan from
  Wheatland to a bank in New York during the Civil War, when
  Pennsylvania was threatened with an invasion by the Confederate

Footnote 5:

  Conversing once in London with an intimate friend, very much younger
  than himself (Mr. S. L. M. Barlow of New York), Mr. Buchanan said: “I
  never intended to engage in politics, but meant to follow my
  profession strictly. But my prospects and plans were all changed by a
  most sad event which happened at Lancaster when I was a young man. As
  a distraction from my great grief, and because I saw that through a
  political following I could secure the friends I then needed, I
  accepted a nomination.”


                              CHAPTER II.


In the autumn of 1820, Mr. Buchanan was elected a Representative in
Congress for a district composed of the counties of Lancaster, York, and
Dauphin. He was nominated and elected as a Federalist. He took his seat
on the 3d of December, 1821.

Of course a young man of nine-and-twenty, who had been for two terms a
member of the Legislature of his native State, and had been somewhat
active in that body, was already possessed of some powers as a debater.
But his political principles, as a national statesman, were yet to be
formed. The “Federalism” of the period in which Mr. Buchanan came into
public life, and which was professed by those among whom he grew up,
chiefly consisted in an opposition to the war of 1812 and to some of the
measures of the Administration which conducted it. In the five years
which followed the peace of 1815, the sharper lines which had separated
the Federal and the Republican (or Democratic) parties, and their
distinctive organizations, almost disappeared. Mr. Monroe, who succeeded
Mr. Madison, was elected President, for the term commencing March 4,
1817, by a majority of 109 out of 217 electoral votes. At his second
election, for the term commencing March 4, 1821, his majority was 118
out of 235. This near approach to unanimity evinces almost an
obliteration of party distinctions. Mr. Monroe’s personal popularity and
the general confidence that was reposed in him had a considerable
influence in producing what was called “the era of good feeling.” which
prevailed while he administered the government. The Federalists, who had
been strongest in the North and the East, were conciliated by his first
Inaugural, while his strength was not weakened among the Republicans (or
Democrats) of the South. In truth, it was not until the war was over and
some of the animosities which it caused had begun to fade, that the
attention of men began to be directed to questions of internal
administration, which would involve an exploration of the Federal powers
and a discussion of policies applicable to a state of peace.

When Mr. Buchanan entered Congress there was no sectionalism to disturb
the repose of the country. The Cabinet was a fair representation of the
different sections, its members being from Massachusetts, New York,
Georgia, South Carolina, Ohio, and Maryland. It remained the same, with
one exception only, until Mr. Monroe went out of office in 1824.[6] It
is not easy to trace among the public men of this period any fixed
political doctrines such as afterwards came to distinguish the opposing
parties. All that can be said is, that in the Middle States those who
had been Republicans had a strong tendency to the Virginia principles of
State Rights; but what these were, beyond a general tendency to watch
and prevent undue expansion of the Federal powers, it would be difficult
now to say. In Congress, most of the Eastern representatives were Free
Traders, while those of the Middle States were in favor of moderate
protection. Among the Southern members there was a disposition to follow
a liberal policy in the administration of the government, which was
aided by the ability and ambition of Mr. Calhoun, the Secretary of War.
But among the members, chiefly confined to the Southwestern States,
there was a compact knot of men who were called “Radicals,” in the
political nomenclature of that period. It is hard to define them, but
their distinctive policy appears to have been a steady resistance to all
expenditures of public money, and a persistently strict construction of
the Constitution. Thus there cannot be said to have been any
well-defined parties at this period, such as the country has since been
accustomed to. But they began to be formed on the questions relating to
finance and the development of the internal resources of the country,
which arose during Mr. Monroe’s Presidency, and continued to a later
period. Men who had been Federalists and men who had been Republicans,
during the previous administrations, passed into the one or the other of
the subsequent parties, which assumed new designations, without much
real historical connection with the old parties that had preceded them.

The personal composition of the two Houses of Congress at this time
presents many interesting names. In the Senate, Rufus King, who had been
a Senator during Washington’s Administration, and Nathaniel Macon, who
had been a Representative at the same time, gave a flavor of the
formative period of the Republic. John Galliard and William Smith (of
South Carolina) and James Brown (of Louisiana) were also among the older
members. A somewhat younger class of men numbered among them Martin Van
Buren, who succeeded General Jackson as President.

Mr. Buchanan always considered it one of the great advantages of his
life that he had the benefit, at this early period, of the society of
Mr. King and Mr. Macon, and he always spoke in the most grateful terms
of their personal kindness to him. The members of the House of
Representatives, with one exception, General Smith of Maryland, were
younger men. They are spoken of in the following paper, which I find in
Mr. Buchanan’s handwriting, and in which he has recorded his impressions
of that beau-ideal of a statesman, William Lowndes, of South Carolina,
by whose early death, in 1822, the country lost one of the ablest, most
accomplished and purest men it has ever produced:[7]

“I entered the House of Representatives with George McDuffie and Joel R.
Poinsett of South Carolina, Andrew Stevenson of Virginia, John Tod of
Pennsylvania, John Nelson of Maryland, Reuben H. Walworth and Churchill
C. Cambreleng of New York, and Benjamin Gorham of Massachusetts. They
were all able and promising men, having already attained high
distinction in their respective States.

“Among those who had served in former Congresses, Mr. William Lowndes of
South Carolina was the foremost in ability and influence. Next to him
stood Mr. Sergeant of Pennsylvania, Mr. McLane of Delaware, Mr. Philip
P. Barbour of Virginia, Mr. Baldwin of Pennsylvania, Mr. Tracy of New
York, and John Randolph of Roanoke. Neither Mr. Clay nor Mr. Webster was
a member of Congress at this period. Mr. Lowndes did not take his seat
until December 21st, nearly three weeks after the beginning of the
session. In the meantime, the new members of the House awaited his
arrival in Washington with much interest. He, with Mr. Calhoun and Mr.
Cheves, had constituted what was termed the ‘Galaxy’ of young men whom
South Carolina sent to the House to sustain the war of 1812 with Great
Britain, and he ranked the first among them.

“Mr. Lowndes had been unanimously nominated in December, 1821, by the
Legislature of South Carolina, as a candidate for the Presidency to
succeed Mr. Monroe. To this he made no direct response. In a letter to a
friend in Charleston, after stating that he had not taken and never
would take a step to draw the public eye upon him for this high place,
he uttered the memorable sentiment: ‘The Presidency of the United States
is not, in my opinion, an office to be either solicited or declined.’
And such was the general conviction of his candor and sincerity that no
man doubted this to be the genuine sentiment of his heart. Fortunate
would it have been for the country had all future aspirants for this
exalted station acted in accordance with this noble sentiment. At the
time, as Mr. Benton truly observes, ‘he was strongly indicated for an
early elevation to the Presidency—indicated by the public will and
judgment, and not by any machinery of individual or party management,
from the approach of which he shrank as from the touch of

“When Mr. Lowndes took his seat in the House, it was apparent to all
that his frail and diseased frame betokened an early death, though he
was then only in the forty-first year of his age. He was considerably
above six feet in height, and was much stooped in person. There was
nothing striking in his countenance to indicate great and varied
intellectual powers. As a speaker he was persuasive and convincing.
Though earnest and decided in the discussion of great questions, he
never uttered a word which could give personal offence to his opponents
or leave a sting behind. His eloquence partook of his own gentle and
unpretending nature. His voice had become feeble and husky, and when he
rose to speak, the members of the House, without distinction of party,
clustered around him so that they might hear every word which fell from
his lips. Towards his antagonists he was the fairest debater ever known
in Congress. It was his custom to state their arguments so strongly and
clearly that John Randolph, on one occasion, exclaimed: ‘He will never
be able to answer himself.’ He possessed all the varied information
necessary to the character of a great American statesman; and this, not
merely in regard to general principles, but to minute practical details.

“On one occasion it became his duty, as Chairman of the Committee on
Commerce, in the House, to present a history of the origin, progress and
character of our trade with the East Indies. This he did with such
fulness and precision that Mr. Silsbee, a well-informed and
much-respected member of the House, and afterwards a Senator from
Massachusetts, declared in his place, that although he had been engaged
in that trade for many years, the gentleman from South Carolina had
communicated to the House important information and shed new light on
the subject which had never been known to him. On another occasion, two
young members made a wager that Mr. Lowndes could not promptly state the
process of manufacturing a common pin. On propounding the question to
him, he at once stated the whole process in minute detail.

“Mr. Lowndes’ great influence,—for he was the undisputed leader in the
House—arose in no small degree from the conviction of its members that
he never had a sinister or selfish purpose in view, but always uttered
the genuine sentiments of his heart. Mr. Lowndes had not the least
jealousy in his nature. In his social intercourse with his
fellow-members he was ever ready and willing to impart his stores of
information on any subject, without feeling the least apprehension that
these might be used to anticipate what he himself intended to say, or in
debate against himself. His health continuing to decline, he resigned
his seat in the House, and by the advice of his physicians, embarked in
October, 1822, from Philadelphia in the ship Moss, with his wife and
daughter, for London. He died on the passage, on the 27th of that month,
and was buried at sea.

“His death was announced in the House of Representatives on the 21st of
January, 1823, by Mr. James Hamilton, his successor. This was the first
occasion on which such honors had been paid to the memory of any one not
a member of the House at the time of his decease. Among the eulogies
pronounced was one by John W. Taylor, of New York, who had been the
Speaker of the House during the session immediately preceding. He had
been an active and able opponent of Mr. Lowndes throughout the debates
and proceedings on the Missouri question, which had for two years
convulsed the House and the country, until its settlement at the close
of the last session. Coming from a political antagonist, it so
graphically presents the true character of Mr. Lowndes, that I am
tempted to copy a portion of it. After referring to his death, as ‘the
greatest misfortune which had befallen the Union’ since he had held a
seat in its councils, he proceeds: ‘The highest and best hopes of this
country looked to William Lowndes for their fulfillment. The most
honorable office in the civilized world—the Chief Magistracy of this
free people—would have been illustrated by his virtues and talents.
During nine years’ service in this House, it was my happiness to be
associated with him on many of its most important committees. He never
failed to shed new light on all subjects to which he applied his
vigorous and discriminating mind. His industry in discharging the
arduous and responsible duties constantly assigned him, was persevering
and efficient. To manners the most unassuming, to patriotism the most
disinterested, to morals the most pure, to attainments of the first rank
in literature and science, he added the virtues of decision and
prudence, so happily combined, so harmoniously united, that we knew not
which most to admire, the firmness with which he pursued his purpose or
the gentleness with which he disarmed opposition. His arguments were
made not to enjoy the triumph of victory, but to convince the judgment
of his hearers; and when the success of his efforts was most signal, his
humility was most conspicuous. You, Mr. Speaker, will remember his zeal
in sustaining the cause of our country in the darkest days of the late

“The whole House, with one accord, responded to the truthfulness of
these sentiments so happily expressed by Mr. Taylor. And yet, strange to
say, the published debates of Congress contain but a meagre and
imperfect sketch, and offer no report at all of the speeches of this
great and good man. His fame as a parliamentary speaker, like that of
the great commoner, Charles James Fox, must mainly rest upon tradition
now fast fading away. The editors of the National Intelligencer truly
remark that, ‘of all the distinguished men who have passed periods of
their lives in either House of Congress, there is certainly no one of
anything like equal ability who has left fewer traces on the page of
history or on the records of Congress than William Lowndes, the eminent
Representative in Congress for several years of the State of South
Carolina.’ The reason which they assign why so few of his eloquent
speeches are to be found on record is attributable, in part, to his
unfeigned diffidence, which placed less than their true value upon his
own exertions, and in part to an objection which he had, on principle,
to the practice of writing out speeches for publication, either before
or after the delivery. Little or no reliance could be placed on the
reporters of that day. The art even of shorthand writing was almost
unknown in this country, and the published sketches prepared by the
so-called reporters, were calculated to injure rather than to elevate
the character of the speaker.

“How much has been lost to the country by the scruples of Mr. Lowndes
may be imagined from the ‘little gem’ of a speech written out by him at
the personal request of Mr. Silsbee, then a member of the House, on the
bill for the relief of the family of Commodore Perry, but never
published until more than twenty years after his death. It does not
appear in the annals of 1821 that he made any speech on this occasion.
It may be added, to show the incapacity of the reporters of that day,
that there is no other mention of his speech against the bankrupt bill,
commenced on February 21st, and concluded on March 5th, 1822, though
listened to with rapt attention by the House, except that he did speak
on these two days. From physical exhaustion he was unable to say all he
had intended on this important subject. His name does not even appear in
the index as a speaker on this bill.

“I have written much more than I should otherwise have done, to repair
injustice done to the character of the ablest, purest, and most
unselfish statesman of his day.”[9]

Of John Randolph and John Sergeant, Mr. Buchanan thus records his

John Randolph of Roanoke was the most conspicuous, though far from the
most influential member of the House, when I first took my seat. He
entered the House in 1799, and had continued there, with the exception
of two terms, from that early period. His style of debate was in perfect
contrast to that of Mr. Lowndes. He was severe and sarcastic, sparing
neither friend nor foe, when the one or the other laid himself open to
the shafts of his ridicule. He was a fine _belles-lettres_ scholar, and
his classical allusions were abundant and happy. He had a shrill and
penetrating voice, and could be heard distinctly in every portion of the
House. He spoke with great deliberation, and often paused for an instant
as if to select the most appropriate word. His manner was confident,
proud, and imposing, and pointing, as he always did, his long forefinger
at the object of attack, he gave peculiar emphasis to the severity of
his language. He attracted a crowded gallery when it was known he would
address the House, and always commanded the undivided attention of his
whole audience, whether he spoke the words of wisdom, or, as he often
did, of folly. For these reasons he was more feared than beloved, and
his influence in the House bore no proportion to the brilliancy of his
talents. He was powerful in pulling down an administration, but had no
skill in building anything up. Hence he was almost always in the
opposition, but was never what is called a business member. To me he was
uniformly respectful, and sometimes complimentary in debate. I well
remember Mr. Sergeant putting me on my guard against Mr. Randolph’s

“Mr. Sergeant entered the House in December, 1815, and had continued to
be a member since that day. As a lawyer, he stood in the front rank
among the eminent members of the bar of Philadelphia, at a period when
its members were greatly distinguished throughout the country for
ability and learning. His personal character was above reproach. From
his first appearance he maintained a high rank in the estimation of the
House. As a debater, he was clear and logical, and never failed to
impart information. His fault was that of almost every member of
Congress who had become a member after a long and successful training at
the bar. He was too exhaustive in his arguments, touching every point in
the question before the House without discriminating between those which
were vital and those which were subordinate. His manner was cold and
didactic, and his prolixity sometimes fatigued the House. In his social
intercourse with the members, he was cold but not repulsive. The high
estimation in which he was held, arose from the just appreciation of his
great abilities, and of his pure and spotless private character. There
was nothing _ad captandum_ about him. He was regarded by his
constituents in Philadelphia with pride and affection, who generally
spoke of him as ‘our John Sergeant.’”

The first debate in which Mr. Buchanan took part related to a bill,
introduced by General Smith of Maryland, making appropriations for the
Military Establishment. This discussion, which took place on the 9th and
11th of January, 1822, was an excited one, from the inner motive of the
opposition to the bill, which was aimed at the supposed aspirations of
Mr. Calhoun, the Secretary of War. In reference to the Secretary Mr.
Buchanan said: “I have no feeling of partiality for the Secretary of
War, nor of prejudice against him. I view him merely as a public
character, and, in that capacity, I conscientiously believe that he has
done his duty.” After a sharp reply from Mr. Randolph, the bill was
passed by a very large majority, the members of the so-called “Radical”
party alone voting against it. There very soon occurred another debate
which is of greater importance, since it marks the direction which Mr.
Buchanan’s mind was beginning to take on the subject of Federal powers
and State Rights. This was the occasion of the introduction of a
Bankrupt bill.

Prior to this time, Congress had but once exercised the constitutional
power “to establish uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies
throughout the United States.” This was in the Bankrupt law of 1800,
which was repealed in 1804. Of the power of Congress to legislate on the
subject of “bankruptcy” there can of course be no doubt, since it is
expressly conferred. But there has always been a doubt respecting the
true construction of the terms “bankruptcy” and “bankrupt.” Following
the English system, the Act of 1800 rejected the idea that these terms
include all “insolvents,” of all occupations, and confined the meaning
to “traders,” or mercantile insolvents. Here, therefore, was one very
serious question in interpretation to be encountered; for although the
measure, of which some account is now to be given, contemplated, as it
was first introduced, none but commercial insolvents, it finally turned
upon an amendment which would have made it applicable to all classes of
insolvent debtors. In either aspect, too, it brought into view the
contrasted functions of the Federal and the State courts, in the
enforcement and collection of private debts.

The close of the war, in 1815, was followed by extensive financial
embarrassment among the commercial classes. The merchants of
Philadelphia suffered severely during the five years which succeeded the
peace, and it was by one of their Representatives, Mr. John Sergeant,
that a bankrupt bill, retrospective as well as prospective in its
operation, was introduced in the House, on the 11th of December, 1821.
On the 22d of January, 1822, the debate was opened by Mr. Sergeant, as
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. His speech was exceedingly able,
and even pathetic, for he spoke for a large class of ruined men. The
discussion continued until the 12th of March, Mr. Sergeant standing
almost alone in advocacy of the bill, in opposition to George Tucker and
Philip P. Barbour of Virginia, and to Mr. Lowndes of South Carolina. The
latter, although opposed to the bill, did not accord with the strict
constructionists of Virginia. Thus far, the proposed measure included
only commercial insolvents. But on the 12th of March, a member from
Kentucky offered an amendment that included all insolvent debtors, which
was adopted. This, of course, changed the aspect of the whole subject,
and whether so intended or not, finally defeated the bill. Mr. Buchanan
spoke in opposition to the bill on the day the amendment was adopted. He
did not question the power of Congress to pass a bankrupt law. Nor did
he contend that the “bankruptcy” referred to in the Constitution,
necessarily included only commercial insolvents. But there is very
perceptible in his speech on this occasion a tendency to that line of
politics which he afterwards adopted and always adhered to, and which
may be described as a forbearance from exercising Federal powers of
acknowledged constitutional validity, in modes and upon occasions which
may lead to an absorption of State jurisdictions. Thus he said: “The
bill, as it stood before the amendment, went far enough. It would, even
then, have brought the operation of the law and the jurisdiction of the
Federal Courts into the bosom of every community. The bill as it now
stands will entirely destroy the symmetry of our system, and make those
courts the arbiters, in almost every case, of contracts to which any
member of society who thinks proper to become a bankrupt may be a party.
It will at once be, in a great degree, a judicial consolidation of the
Union. This was never intended by the friends of the Constitution......
The jurisdiction of Federal Courts is now chiefly confined to
controversies existing between the citizens of different States. This
bill, if it should become a law, will amount to a judicial consolidation
of the Union.”

Of the general tenor of this sweeping measure, Mr. Buchanan said:

“Let a bankrupt be presented to the view of society, who has become
wealthy since his discharge, and who, after having ruined a number of
his creditors, shields himself from the payment of his honest debts by
his certificate, and what effects would such a spectacle be calculated
to produce? Examples of this nature must at length demoralize any
people. The contagion introduced by the laws of the country would, for
that very reason, spread like a pestilence, until honesty, honor, and
faith will at length be swept from the intercourse of society. Leave the
agricultural interest pure and uncorrupted, and they will forever form
the basis on which the Constitution and liberties of your country may
safely repose. Do not, I beseech you, teach them to think lightly of the
solemn obligation of contracts. No government on earth, however corrupt,
has ever enacted a bankrupt law for farmers; it would be a perfect
monster in this country, where our institutions depend altogether upon
the virtue of the people. We have no constitutional power to pass the
amendment proposed by the gentleman from Kentucky; and if we had, we
never should do so, because such a provision would spread a moral taint
through society which would corrupt it to its very core.”

The next important discussion in which Mr. Buchanan took part was on a
bill relating to the Cumberland Road. Before he entered Congress, a
national turnpike had been built by the Federal Government, extending
from Cumberland in the State of Maryland to Wheeling in the State of
Virginia. It crossed a narrow part of Maryland, passed through a corner
of Pennsylvania, and touched but a small part of Virginia. The principal
interest felt in this work was in the Western States. It encountered
much opposition in Pennsylvania, where a turnpike road had been built,
under State authority, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, which was kept
in repair by tolls, and which paid a small dividend to its stockholders.
A national road, supported by the Federal Government, and taking the
travel from the Pennsylvania road was considered in that State as a
grievance. Moreover, whenever the question of appropriating money for
the continued support of this national road, or the alternative of
imposing tolls, arose in Congress, the question of constitutional power
to establish such means of communication necessarily arose at every
stage of the legislation. That legislation is of interest now, inasmuch
as the course taken by Mr. Buchanan illustrates the development of his
opinions upon the constitutional question.

Of the last appropriation for continuing the Cumberland Road, there
remained a balance in the Treasury of less than $10,000. In the General
Appropriation Bill of this session (1822), provision was made for the
repair of the road. A member from New Jersey moved to increase the
amount. On this amendment there was an animated discussion, in which Mr.
Buchanan appears to have considered that this public work was so
beneficial to the general prosperity of the Union, that Congress might
well appropriate the money needed for its support. “The truth is,” he
said, “we are all so connected together by our interests, as to place us
in a state of mutual dependence upon each other, and to make that which
is for the interest of any one member of the Federal family beneficial,
in most instances, to all the rest. We never can be divided without
first being guilty of political suicide. The prosperity of all the
States depends as much upon their Union, as human life depends upon that
of the soul and body.” It is quite obvious that this kind of reasoning
was, however true in the general, too broad and sweeping to justify the
appropriation of money from the Federal Treasury for a public work which
could claim no other than an incidental and remote relation to the
prosperity of all the States. Every appropriation of money by Congress
must rest upon some specific power of the Federal Constitution; and
although Congress has a specific power “to regulate commerce among the
several States,” and while it may be admitted that commerce includes
intercourse, it has been from the first, and still is, a serious
question whether this grant of the power of commercial regulation
includes a power to establish and maintain the means by which commerce
is carried on, and by which intercourse may be facilitated, unless such
means fall within the designation of “post-roads,” and are established,
primarily at least, for the transmission of mails. The appropriation
proposed for the continued support of the Cumberland Road failed, and
then came the question, in a separate bill, of imposing tolls for the
support of the road. Mr. Buchanan voted for this bill, as did most of
his colleagues from Pennsylvania, and it passed both Houses. But on the
4th of May (1822), the President, Mr. Monroe, returned the bill with a
very long message, stating his objections to it. From this voluminous
message, we may extract, although with some difficulty, two positions;
first, that in Mr. Monroe’s opinion, Congress had no power to raise
money by erecting toll-gates and collecting tolls, and that the States
cannot individually grant such a power to Congress by their votes in
Congress, or by any special compact with the United States; secondly,
that Congress having an unlimited power to raise money by taxation
general and uniform throughout the United States, its absolute
discretion in the appropriation of the money so raised is restricted
only by the duty of appropriating to the purposes of the common defence,
and of general, not local, benefit. The first of these positions will be
conceded by every one. The second admits of some doubt. Its soundness
depends upon the true interpretation of the first of the enumerated
powers of the Federal Constitution, that which contains the grant of the
taxing power.[10] This is not the place to enter upon the discussion of
controverted questions of constitutional interpretation. But all
students of the Federal Constitution are aware that the grammatical
construction of the clause to which Mr. Monroe referred, admits of, and
has been claimed to admit of, two interpretations. Read by itself, and
without reference to the other enumerated powers, this clause has been
supposed by some persons to grant an unlimited power to tax for any
purpose that in the judgment of Congress will promote the general
welfare of the United States, provided only that the taxation is
uniform. On the other hand, it has been contended that the clause is not
a broad, independent, and specific power to tax for any object that will
promote the general welfare of the United States, but that it is limited
to the promotion of the general welfare through the exercise of some one
or more of the other enumerated powers of the Constitution, each of
which must receive its own scope from a just interpretation before the
people of the United States can be taxed for the means of exercising
that power. Viewed in the latter sense, the clause contains a grant of
the power of taxation, general and universal in its nature, but limited
as to its objects by the objects of each of the other enumerated powers.
Viewed in the former sense, it becomes a separate and independent power
to tax for any object that will promote the general welfare, without
reference to the exercise of any of the specific powers of the
Constitution which form the objects for which the Federal Government was

Mr. Monroe’s veto message on this occasion was sustained in the House by
a vote of 68 to 72, and the bill consequently failed. The vote of the
House, however, is to be considered as a concurrence in Mr. Monroe’s
objection that Congress cannot establish toll-gates and collect tolls,
and not as an affirmance of the general views which he expressed on the
taxing power. But upon Mr. Buchanan this message produced a strong
effect. It was the first time that his mind had been brought sharply to
the consideration of the questions in what mode “Internal Improvements,”
as they were called, can be effected by the General Government, and
consequently he began to perceive the dividing line between the Federal
and the State powers. Although he had voted for the bill imposing tolls
upon the Cumberland Road, influenced probably by the desire to diminish
its injurious competition with the Pennsylvania road, he took occasion
at the next session to retract the error of which he had been convinced
by Mr. Monroe’s message. When a bill was introduced at the next session,
making an appropriation for the preservation and repair of the
Cumberland Road, he moved as an amendment that the United States
retrocede the road to the three States through which it passed, on
condition that they would keep it in repair and collect no more tolls
than such as would be necessary for that purpose. Being now convinced
that Congress could not impose the tolls, he thought the only
alternative was to cede the road to the States, since it could not be
supported from the Federal Treasury without producing inequality and
injustice. His amendment was rejected and the bill was passed.[11] A
precedent was thus established for the support of the road by Congress.
The subject will again recur in 1829 and 1836. In Mr. Buchanan’s speech
in 1829 will be found the expression of his more matured constitutional
views on the whole subject of Internal Improvements.[12]

The 17th Congress, which commenced its session in December, 1822, and
terminated in March, 1823, witnessed a protracted discussion on the
doctrine of “protection,” which extended into the 18th Congress. The
tariff of 1823–4 was the second measure of that kind after the war. At
that period the prevalent doctrine in the New England States was
Anti-protectionist. The city of Boston was represented by Mr. Benjamin
Gorham, a lawyer of remarkable ability, the immediate predecessor of Mr.
Webster. His speech against the new tariff was replied to by Mr.
Buchanan; and if the reply is a fair indication of the speech against
which it was directed, Mr. Gorham’s language must have been
vehement.[13] Mr. Buchanan said:

“The gentleman from Massachusetts has declared this bill to be an
attempt, by one portion of the Union for its own peculiar advantage, to
impose ruinous taxes on another. He has represented it as an effort to
compel the agriculturists of the South to pay tribute to the
manufacturers of the North; he has proclaimed it to be a tyrannical
measure. He has gone further, and boldly declared that the people of the
South should resist such a law, and that they ought to resist it. The
gentlemen from Massachusetts and Georgia (Mr. Tattnall) have proclaimed
it tyranny, and tyranny which ought to be resisted. I confess I never
expected to hear inflammatory speeches of this kind within these walls
which ought to be sacred to union; I never expected to hear the East
counselling the South to resistance, that we might thus be deterred from
prosecuting a measure of policy, urged upon us by the necessities of the
country. It was by a combination between the cotton-growers of the South
and the manufacturers of the North, that the introduction of coarse
cottons from abroad has been in effect prohibited by the high rates of
duties. It is ungenerous, then, for the South and the East to sound the
tocsin of alarm and resistance when we wish indirectly to benefit the
agriculturists and manufacturers of the Middle and Western States by the
imposition of necessary duties. If I know myself, I am a politician
neither of the East nor of the West, of the North nor of the South; I,
therefore, shall forever avoid any expressions, the direct tendency of
which must be to create sectional jealousies, sectional divisions, and,
at length, disunion—that worst and last of all political calamities. I
will never consent to adopt a general restrictive system, because the
agricultural class of the community would then be left at the mercy of
the manufacturers. The interest of the many would thus be sacrificed to
promote the wealth of the few. The farmer, in addition to the premium
which he would be compelled to pay the manufacturer, would have also to
sustain the expenses of the Government. If this bill proposed a system
which leads to such abuses, it should not receive my support. If I
could, for a single moment, believe in the language of the gentleman
from Georgia—that this bill would compel the agricultural to bow down
before the manufacturing interest—I should consider myself a traitor to
my country in giving it any support.”

In the subsequent Congress, Mr. Buchanan spoke twice on the subject of
the tariff, namely, March 23d and April 9th, 1824. But the foregoing
extract from his speech in February, 1823, is sufficient to show how
moderate and just his views were on the subject of protection.

When Mr. Buchanan entered Congress in December, 1821, his professional
income was the largest that he ever received. He had then been eight
years at the bar, and his emoluments from his profession, which were
less than $1,000 for the first year, had become more than $11,000 for
the year 1821–2. They then fell off somewhat rapidly, and in the year
1828 they amounted to only a little more than $2,000.


Footnote 6:

  Mr. Thompson, Secretary of the Navy, was appointed to the Bench of the
  Supreme Court in December, 1823, and Mr. Southard, of New Jersey, took
  his place.

Footnote 7:

  These notes were written by Mr. Buchanan in 1867.

Footnote 8:

  Benton’s Thirty Years in the Senate, Vol. I, p. 19.

Footnote 9:

  In the debate on Chilton’s Resolutions, in 1825, Mr. Sergeant said:

  “At the head of the Committee of Ways and Means in 1816, was one who
  could not be remembered without feelings of deep regret at the public
  loss occasioned by his early death. He possessed, in an uncommon
  degree, the confidence of this House, and he well deserved it. With so
  much accurate knowledge, and with powers which enabled him to delight
  and instruct the House, there was united so much gentleness and
  kindness, and such real, unaffected modesty, that you were prepared to
  be subdued before he exerted his commanding powers of argument. I mean
  William Lowndes of South Carolina.”—_Benton’s Debates_, Vol. IX, 730.

Footnote 10:

  Art. I., § 8.—“To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises,
  to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general
  welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts, and excises
  shall be uniform throughout the United States.”

Footnote 11:

  February 21, 1823.

Footnote 12:


Footnote 13:

  Mr. Gorham’s speech has not been preserved.


                              CHAPTER III.


I now approach one of those periods of intense political excitement
which it becomes every one who has to write of them to treat in an
entirely impartial and judicial spirit. The subject of this chapter is
the Presidential election of 1824,[14] and Mr. Buchanan’s connection
with it. The famous “coalition” between Mr. John Quincy Adams and Mr.
Clay, is a topic that involves so much that is personal, that one must
needs divest one’s self of all preconceived opinions, and must regard
the whole matter with that indifference which the present age already
feels, and which is solicitous only to do no injustice to individual
reputations. At the same time, the whole case should be plainly stated;
for it touches a provision of the Constitution, by which its framers
supplied a means for filling the office of President, in the event of
there being no choice through the electoral colleges.

In the year 1824, there were 261 electoral votes in the Union, a
majority being 131. The candidates at the popular election were General
Jackson, Mr. John Quincy Adams, Mr. Crawford, and Mr. Clay. Neither of
them was the candidate of a distinctively organized political party.
General Jackson was a member of the Senate, from the State of Tennessee.
Mr. Adams was Secretary of State, under President Monroe. Mr. Crawford,
who had formerly been a Senator from Georgia, was not in any public
position. Mr. Clay was a Representative from Kentucky, and was chosen
Speaker of the House at the beginning of the session. Neither of these
candidates having received a majority of the electoral votes, the
election of a President devolved on the House of Representatives, in
which body each State would have one vote. But as the Constitution
required that the choice of the House be confined to the three highest
candidates on the list of those voted for by the electors, and as Mr.
Clay was not one of the three, he was excluded. He and his friends,
however, had it in their power to make either General Jackson or Mr.
Adams President; and Mr. Clay at all times had great control over his
friends. How he would cast his vote, and how he would lead his followers
who were members of the House to cast theirs, became therefore an
intensely exciting subject of speculation both in Washington and
throughout the country. For a short time it was supposed that Mr. Clay
and the other members from Kentucky would be governed by a resolution
adopted by both branches of the Legislature of that State, requesting
their members of Congress to vote for General Jackson. This resolution
had been adopted in the Kentucky House of Representatives on the 31st of
December (1824), by a majority of 73 to 11; and in the Senate of the
State it was adopted by a vote of 18 to 12. It spoke what was the
undoubted wish of the people of Kentucky, whose first choice for the
office of President was Mr. Clay himself, but whose preference for
General Jackson to Mr. Adams was explicitly declared by their
Legislature.[15] General Jackson had received the unanimous electoral
votes of eight States: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South
Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Indiana, and Alabama. Mr. Adams had
received the unanimous electoral votes of the six New England States. If
the Representatives of these various States in Congress should vote as
their States had voted, it would require but five additional States to
elect General Jackson, while seven would be needed to elect Mr. Adams.
Of the remaining States which had not unanimously given their electoral
votes to General Jackson or to Mr. Adams, it appears that General
Jackson received one of the electoral votes of New York, Mr. Adams
received twenty-six, and Mr. Crawford five. Delaware had given one of
its electoral votes to Mr. Adams and two to Mr. Crawford. General
Jackson had seven of the electoral votes of Maryland, Mr. Adams three,
and Mr. Crawford one. Virginia had given all of her electoral votes,
twenty-four, to Mr. Crawford. Louisiana had given three of her electoral
votes to General Jackson, and two to Mr. Adams. The electoral votes of
Illinois had gone two for General Jackson, and one for Mr. Adams. Which
of these doubtful States would be won in the great contest for General
Jackson, and which for Mr. Adams, was now the all-absorbing topic, and
the result depended very much upon the course of Mr. Clay.

Among the scandals which hung around this election, it was afterward
said that Mr. Buchanan, while the matter was pending before the House of
Representatives in the winter of 1824–5, had, as an agent or friend of
Mr. Clay, approached General Jackson and sought to secure his promise to
make Mr. Clay Secretary of State, in consideration of his receiving Mr.
Clay’s vote and influence in the House. There was not much intrinsic
probability in this imputation, for the relations between Mr. Clay and
Mr. Buchanan were not such as would naturally have led to the selection
of the latter as Mr. Clay’s agent in such a negotiation, even if Mr.
Clay had been capable of making such an attempt to obtain from General
Jackson a promise to make him Secretary of State, while the election of
a President was pending in the House. But inasmuch as General Jackson,
nearly twenty years afterward, was quoted in support of this statement,
it is proper that I should lay before the reader Mr. Buchanan’s own
explicit account of what actually took place. It will be seen hereafter
that General Jackson, who always believed that there had been a corrupt
political bargain between Mr. Clay and Mr. Adams, was led afterwards to
think that Mr. Buchanan had at the time of the election entertained the
same belief, and yet that Mr. Buchanan had refrained from denouncing the
bargain as he should have done, because he had himself made the same
kind of attempt for Mr. Clay, in the conversation which he had with
General Jackson before the election took place. Mr. Buchanan’s own
account of his interview with General Jackson shows very clearly that,
instead of seeking an interview with General Jackson for the purpose of
proposing to him to make a bargain with Mr. Clay about the office of
Secretary of State, his sole object was to obtain from General Jackson a
denial of a prevailing rumor that he had said he would continue Mr.
Adams in that office, if elected President.

At the time of this occurrence, Mr. Buchanan was a comparatively young
member of Congress, in the beginning of his fourth session. Speaking of
himself in the third person, he says in a memorandum now before me, “He
[Buchanan] had never personally known either General Jackson or Mr. Clay
until about the opening of this Congress, when the one took his seat as
a Senator from Tennessee, and the other was elected Speaker of the
House. Having great confidence in the sound political principles and
exalted character of General Jackson, and greatly preferring him to any
of the other candidates, he [Buchanan] had taken a very active part
before the people of Pennsylvania in securing for him their electoral
vote. Still, he was at the same time a warm admirer of Mr. Clay.”

The prevalent rumor that General Jackson had said he would continue Mr.
Adams in the office of Secretary of State, in case of his election to
the Presidency, was supposed to derive some color of probability from
their known friendly relations, and from the defence which Mr. Adams had
made of the General’s conduct in the Seminole war. It was a rumor that
greatly disturbed General Jackson’s friends and supporters in
Pennsylvania. They regarded Mr. Adams’ constitutional views as much too
latitudinarian for the leading position in General Jackson’s cabinet;
and they feared that the General’s announcement of such a purpose would
stand in the way of his election by the House of Representatives. Mr.
Buchanan fully shared this anxiety of his Pennsylvania constituents and
political friends; and with the approbation and advice of a leading
gentleman among this class of General Jackson’s supporters, Mr. Buchanan
determined to ascertain from the General himself whether there was any
foundation for the rumor.[16] He first endeavored to obtain the
information from Major Eaton, the colleague of General Jackson in the
Senate, and his most intimate friend. Major Eaton declined to make the
inquiry. Mr. Buchanan then determined to make it himself. What follows
is from Mr. Buchanan’s own account of the interview, which lies before
me in his handwriting:

Calling at the General’s lodgings in “the Seven Buildings,” Mr. Buchanan
accompanied him, on his own invitation, in a walk as far as the War
Department, where the General had to call on public business. After a
suitable introduction and reference to the rumor afloat, Mr. Buchanan
requested him to state whether he had ever declared that in case he
should be elected President he would appoint Mr. Adams Secretary of
State. To this he replied by saying that whilst he thought well of Mr.
Adams, he had never said or intimated that he would or would not make
this appointment. With this answer, Mr. Buchanan was entirely satisfied,
and so expressed himself. The object of his mission was thus
accomplished. The General’s answer was positive and emphatic. It made a
deep and lasting impression on his only auditor, who requested
permission to repeat it, and he gave it without reserve.

This, however, was not the whole of the conversation; and in order to
explain how this conversation became afterwards distorted into the
appearance of an application by Mr. Buchanan to General Jackson on
behalf of Mr. Clay, it is necessary to advert to something which took
place between Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Philip S. Markley, another
Representative from the State of Pennsylvania, before Mr. Buchanan spoke
to General Jackson. Mr. Markley had been a devoted advocate of Mr. Clay
for the Presidency. He urged Mr. Buchanan to see General Jackson, and to
persuade him either to say that Mr. Clay should be Secretary of State,
or to remain absolutely silent as between Mr. Clay and Mr. Adams; “for
then,” as he remarked, “the friends of Mr. Clay would be placed upon the
same footing with the friends of Mr. Adams, and fight them with their
own weapons.” If Mr. Buchanan had made any proposition to General
Jackson respecting Mr. Clay, there might have been some foundation for
the subsequent charge that Mr. Buchanan approached the General as an
emissary of Mr. Clay. But, in point of fact, Mr. Buchanan did nothing of
the kind. After the General had given him the assurance that he had
never said he would or would not appoint Mr. Adams Secretary of State,
and before they parted, Mr. Buchanan mentioned, as an item of current
news, what he had heard Mr. Markley say. It does not appear to have
produced upon General Jackson, at the time, any impression that Mr.
Buchanan wished him to hold out any encouragement to the friends of Mr.
Clay that in the event of his election he would make Mr. Clay Secretary
of State. On the contrary, from what General Jackson said in answer to
Mr. Buchanan’s sole inquiry, it is apparent that Mr. Buchanan obtained
the only answer that he sought to obtain, namely, that the General had
not said that he would or would not appoint Mr. Adams as his Secretary
of State. Mr. Buchanan continues his account of the interview as

“When I parted from the General, I felt conscious that I had done my
duty, and no more than my duty, towards him and my party, as one of his
most ardent and consistent political friends. Indeed the idea did not
enter my imagination at the time that the General could have afterwards
inferred from any thing I said, that I had approached him as the
emissary of Mr. Clay, to propose to elect him President, provided that
he (the General) would agree to appoint him Secretary of State. It is
but justice to observe that the General stated, in his subsequent
publication, that I did not represent myself to be the friend and agent
of Mr. Clay. Surely, if Mr. Clay had desired or intended to have made
such a bargain, he would have selected as his agent an old political and
personal friend. Events passed on,” Mr. Buchanan continues; “then came
the letter of Mr. George Kremer to the Columbian _Observer_, of the 25th
of January, 1825, charging the existence of a corrupt bargain between
Messrs. Adams and Clay; his avowal of its authorship, the appeal of Mr.
Clay to the House of Representatives against the charges it contained,
the report of the Committee on the subject, and, on the same day, the
election of Mr. Adams as President of the United States by the House of
Representatives; Mr. Adams receiving the vote of thirteen States,
including that of Kentucky, General Jackson of seven States, and Mr.
Crawford of four States. During all the debates and proceedings of the
House, on Mr. Clay’s appeal against the charges of Mr. Kremer, it was
never intimated to me, in the most distant manner, by any human being,
that I was expected to be a witness to sustain this charge, or had any
connection with the subject more than any other member of the House.

“The conduct of General Jackson, after his defeat, was admirable. He
bore it with so much dignity and magnanimity, and perfect self-control,
as to elicit strong commendations, even from his political opponents. At
President Monroe’s levee, on the evening of the election, where he and
Mr. Adams were both present, it was repeatedly remarked, from the
courtesy and kindness of his manner and conversation, contrasted with
the coldness and reserve of Mr. Adams, that a stranger might have
inferred he had been the successful and Mr. Adams the defeated

The election of Mr. Adams by the House of Representatives was followed
after the adjournment of Congress by a correspondence between Mr.
Buchanan and General Jackson, commencing in the spring of 1825 and
extending to August, 1827. This correspondence shows, first, the terms
on which General Jackson and Mr. Buchanan parted in Washington in the
spring of 1825; and in the next place it fixes the time and mode in
which the idea was first presented to the mind of General Jackson that
Mr. Buchanan came to him in December, 1824, as a friend of Mr. Clay. The
reader will observe that, while the election of Mr. Adams was a recent
event, while the country was ringing with the charge of a “corrupt
coalition” between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay, and down to the 29th of
January, 1827, during the whole of which period General Jackson’s mind
was peculiarly excited by what he may have believed concerning the means
by which his rival had become President, there is no trace in this
correspondence of any feeling on his part that Mr. Buchanan had ever
been in any way connected with the supposed bargain, or with any effort
to make a similar bargain between General Jackson and Mr. Clay, or that
Mr. Buchanan knew of any important fact that would tend to support the
charge of a bargain between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay. It was not until the
summer of 1827, nearly three years after the conversation between
General Jackson and Mr. Buchanan, that the General appears to have had
an erroneous impression of Mr. Buchanan’s purpose in seeking that

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                                       MAY 29, 1825.


I write this letter from Mercersburg, being now on a visit to my mother
and the family. I have no news of any importance to communicate, but
both inclination and duty conspire to induce me to trouble you
occasionally with a few lines, whilst you must be gratefully remembered
by every American citizen who feels an interest in the character of his
country’s glory.

You have imposed additional obligations upon me by the uniform kindness
and courtesy with which you have honored me.

In Pennsylvania, amongst a vast majority of the people, there is but one
sentiment concerning the late Presidential election. Although they
submit patiently, as is their duty, to the legally constituted powers,
yet there is a fixed and determined resolution to change them as soon as
they have the constitutional power to do so. In my opinion, your
popularity in Pennsylvania is now more firmly established than ever.
Many persons who heretofore supported you did it cheerfully from a sense
of gratitude, and because they thought it would be disgraceful to the
people not to elevate that candidate to the Presidential Chair, who had
been so great a benefactor of the country. The slanders which had been
so industriously circulated against your character had, nevertheless, in
some degree affected their minds, although they never doubted either
your ability or patriotism, yet they expressed fears concerning your
temper. These have been all dissipated by the mild prudence and dignity
of your conduct last winter, before and after the Presidential election.
The majority is so immense in your favor that there is little or no
newspaper discussion on the subject. I most sincerely and fervently
trust and hope that the Almighty will preserve your health until the
period shall again arrive when the sovereign people shall have the power
of electing a President.

There never was a weaker attempt made than that to conciliate the good
opinion of Pennsylvania in favor of the administration by the
appointment of Mr. Rush, although no appointment could have produced the
effect desired; yet, if the President had selected Mr. Sergeant, he
would have chosen a man who had been his early and consistent friend,
and one whose character for talents and integrity stands high with all
parties in this State. Mr. Rush was a candidate for the office of
elector on the Crawford ticket. I verily believe his appointment will
not procure for the administration, out of the city of Philadelphia,
twenty new friends throughout the State. In that city their additional
strength is limited to John Binns and a few of his devoted followers.

I hope Mrs. Jackson, ere this, has been restored to her accustomed
health. When I left her, I felt some apprehensions in relation to the
issue of her disease. Please to present to her my kindest and best
respects, and believe me to be ever your sincere friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                           HERMITAGE, June 25, 1825.


I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your kind letter of
the 29th ult., which has just reached me.

That respect which I formed for your character on our first acquaintance
increased with our friendly intercourse, and to you was only extended
what I viewed a debt due to your merit as a gentleman of intelligence
and urbanity. It is, therefore, a source of much gratification to me to
receive a letter from you, detailing the friendly feelings of the
citizens of Pennsylvania toward me.

It is gratifying to hear, through you, that the confidence and support
which the majority of the citizens of Pennsylvania expressed for me, by
their vote on the Presidential question, will not be withdrawn by the
artful and insidious efforts of my enemies. This is another evidence of
the firmness and indulgence of the freemen of Pennsylvania. This
organized plan of calumny and slander, levelled against me by the
unprincipled and wicked, will not owe its defeat to any effort of mine,
unless it be that which always attends truth and a conscious rectitude
of conduct, when submitted to an untrammelled and honest public. The
continued good opinion, therefore, of my fellow-citizens of
Pennsylvania, lays me under additional obligations, whilst it connects
my name with another guaranty of the wisdom of our government—I mean in
furnishing to posterity another example of the weakness of demagogues
when endeavoring to advance to power upon the destruction of innocence.

It is much to the honor of the good citizens of Pennsylvania that they
calmly submit to the legally constituted power; this all good citizens
will do, who love a government of laws, although they show much
disapprobation at the means by which that power was obtained, and are
determined to oppose the men who obtained power by what they believe
illicit means. The great constitutional corrective in the hands of the
people against usurpation of power, or corruption by their agents, is
the right of suffrage; and this, when used with calmness and
deliberation, will prove strong enough. It will perpetuate their
liberties and rights, and will compel their representatives to discharge
their duties with an eye single to the public interest, for whose
security and advancement government is constituted.

I have not yet been so fortunate as to fall in with Mr. Frazer, although
I have made inquiry for him. Should I meet with him, be assured it will
be a gratification to me to extend to him those attentions due to any of
your friends.

I regret very much that the bad health of Mrs. J. prevented me from
passing through your hospitable town. I assure you, could we have done
so, it would have afforded Mrs. J. and myself much pleasure. Mrs. J.’s
health is perfectly restored. So soon as I got her to breathe the
mountain air of Pennsylvania, she mended by the hour.

We are also blessed, in this section of the country, with the promise of
fine crops. Our cotton promises a good crop. This is six days earlier
than ever known in this section of country.

Mrs. J. joins me in kind salutations to you, with our best wishes for
your happiness.

                                                Your friend,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                           HERMITAGE, April 8, 1826.


I received, by due course of mail, your friendly letter of the 8th ult.,
transmitting a resolution passed by the Convention at Harrisburg, in
which it is declared “that their confidence in me is unimpaired.” This
resolution adds another to the many obligations which I owe to the
Republicans of Pennsylvania, and which shall be cherished as long as the
feelings of gratitude and the sentiments of patriotism have a place in
my heart. What greater consolation could be offered to my declining
years than the reflection that my public conduct, notwithstanding the
difficulties through which it has led me, can still be honored with
testimonials so distinguished as this from the enlightened and patriotic
Pennsylvanians; I desire no greater.

I have noted your remarks relative to Mr. Molton C. Rogers—every
information I have received concerning him corroborates your account of
him, and I have no doubt he fully merits the high character he sustains.

We have received the result of the Panama question in the Senate. From
the whole view of the subject I have been compelled to believe that it
is a hasty, unadvised measure, calculated to involve us in difficulties,
perhaps war, without receiving in return any real benefit. The maxim
that it is easier to avoid difficulties than to remove them when they
have reached us, is too old not to be true; but perhaps this and many
other good sayings, are becoming inapplicable in the present stage of
our public measures, which seem to be so far removed from our
(_illegible_) that even the language of Washington must be transposed in
order to be reconciled to the councils of wisdom. I hope I may be
wrong—it is my sincere wish that this Panama movement may advance the
happiness and glory of the country—but if it be not a commitment of our
neutrality with Spain, and indirectly with other powers, as, for
example, Brazil, I have misconstrued very much the signification of the
anathemas which have been pronounced upon the Assembly at Verona, as
well as the true sense of the principles which form international law.
Let the primary interests of Europe be what they may, or let our
situation vary as far as you please from that which we occupied when the
immortal Washington retired from the councils of his country, I cannot
see, for my part, how it follows that the primary interests of the
United States will be safer in the hands of others than in her own; or,
in other words, that it can ever become necessary to form treaties,
alliances, or any connections with the governments of South America,
which may infringe upon the principles of equality among nations which
is the basis of their independence, as well as all their international
rights. The doctrine of Washington is as applicable to the present, as
to the then primary interests of Europe, so far as our own peace and
happiness are concerned, and I have no hesitation in saying, so far as
the true interests of South America are concerned—maugre the discovery
of Mr. Adams, that if Washington was now with us, he would unite with
him in sending this mission to Panama. No one feels more for the cause
of the South Americans than I do, and if the proper time had arrived, I
trust that none would more willingly march to their defence. But there
is a wide difference between relieving them from a combination of league
powers, and aiding them in forming a confederation which can do no good,
as far as I am apprised of its objects, and which we all know, let its
objects be the best, will contain evil tendencies.

             Believe me to be, with great respect,

                                      Your obedient servant,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                           HERMITAGE, Oct. 15, 1826.


I was very much gratified on the receipt of your letter of the 21st
ult., which reached me yesterday, and thank you for the information it
contains. I want language to express the gratitude I feel for the
unsolicited, but generous support of the great Republican State of
Pennsylvania—did I lack a stimulus to exert all my faculties to promote
the best interests of my country, this alone would be sufficient. Who
could abandon the path of Republican virtue when thus supported by the
voluntary approbation of the enlightened and virtuous citizens of such a
State as Pennsylvania? I answer, none whose minds have been matured in
the schools of virtue, religion and morality.

I am happy to learn that Mr. Cheves has become your neighbor and a
citizen—he is a great blessing to any society—he has a well-stored mind
of useful information, which he will employ to the benefit of his
country and the happiness of the society to which he belongs. Please
present me to him respectfully.

I regret to learn that the drought has visited your section of country,
and your crops are not abundant; still, so long as we have a supply of
breadstuffs and other substantials, we ought to be thankful and happy.
When we contrast our situation with Ireland and England, we ought to
view ourselves as the chosen people of God, who has given us such a
happy government of laws and placed us in such a climate and fertile
soil. We ought not only to be thankful, but we ought to cherish and
foster this heavenly boon with vestal vigilance.

Mrs. J. joins me in kind salutations and respects to you.

                       I am, very respectfully, your friend,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                           HERMITAGE, Jan. 29, 1827.


Your favor of the 19th has been before me for some time, but observing
in the papers the obituary notice of your brother, whose illness took
you from the city, I have delayed acknowledging its receipt until
advised of your return. I pray you to accept my sincere condolence for
the serious loss you have sustained in the death of your brother.

I suspect the Administration begins to perceive the necessity of public
confidence, without which it is an arduous undertaking to execute the
solemn duties confided by the Constitution to the Chief Magistrate. The
Panama “bubble” and the loss of the trade with the British West Indies
are the result of this defect in the Cabinet, for it cannot be supposed
that such reputed diplomatists would have committed errors so obvious,
had not some influence stronger than the public good operated upon their
minds. My hope, however, is that the wisdom of Congress may remedy these
blunders, and that my friends the “factious opposition” may, in your own
language, never forget the support due to the country.

I had predicted, from the movements of (_illegible_) and Rochester, that
the Panama subject was done with, and that the charge of “factious
opposition” would be hushed, but it appears I was mistaken. —— is to be
the theatre on which these mighty projects are to be unfolded. Alas!
what folly and weakness!

Present me to my friend Mr. Kremer, and believe me,

         Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

In the spring of 1827, Mr. Carter Beverley, of Virginia, was on a visit
to General Jackson at the “Hermitage.” The conversation turned on the
incidents which preceded the election of Mr. Adams, and General Jackson
gave some account of his interview with Mr. Buchanan in December, 1824,
speaking of Mr. Buchanan, however, not by name, but as “a leading member
of Congress.” Mr. Beverley wrote an account of this conversation to a
friend in North Carolina, who published his letter. Mr. Beverley
afterward wrote to General Jackson, saying that his letter was not
intended for publication, but asking if its statements were correct.
General Jackson, without seeing Mr. Beverley’s published letter, then
wrote an answer to Mr. Beverley, which was published, and in which he
stated that “a leading member of Congress” had, as the agent or
confidential friend of Mr. Clay, proposed to him to engage to make Mr.
Clay Secretary of State, and that he emphatically declined to do so.
Subsequently, in another publication, General Jackson gave the name of
Mr. Buchanan as the member who had thus approached him. The public was
thus (in 1827) electrified by a statement, coming from General Jackson
himself, that Mr. Clay, who had been charged with purchasing his
appointment by Mr. Adams as Secretary of State, by his promise to make
Mr. Adams President, had attempted, through Mr. Buchanan, to negotiate
the same kind of corrupt bargain with General Jackson, on the like
promise to make General Jackson President. It is very easy to see how
this mistake first arose in the General’s mind. Recollecting the
information which Mr. Buchanan had given him of the over-zealous and
imprudent conversation of Mr. Markley, who was a known partisan of Mr.
Clay,—information which Mr. Buchanan assigned as a reason why the
General should disavow the rumor that he had promised to appoint Mr.
Adams Secretary,—General Jackson had evidently come to misunderstand the
object of Mr. Buchanan in mentioning what Mr. Markley had said. It must
be remembered that at this time (1827) there was an angry and excited
controversy going on, respecting the supposed bargain between Mr. Clay
and Mr. Adams; that Mr. Clay was publishing, and that General Jackson
was publishing; that General Jackson undoubtedly believed that there had
been an improper understanding between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay, and it
was very natural for him to take up the idea that Mr. Buchanan, by
mentioning what Mr. Markley had said, stood ready, as a friend of Mr.
Clay, to propose and carry out a similar bargain with himself. Apart
from Mr. Buchanan’s denial, there seems to be an intrinsic improbability
that one who had been an earnest supporter of General Jackson in the
popular election, and who feared that even a rumor of his intended
appointment of Mr. Adams would injure the General in the House of
Representatives, and who knew that it would greatly injure him in
Pennsylvania, if it were not contradicted, should have exerted himself
to get from the General a promise to make Mr. Clay Secretary of State.
Promises, or rumors of promises, in regard to this appointment, were the
very things which Mr. Buchanan was interested to prevent. It was very
unfortunate that General Jackson did not afterwards and always see, that
the mention by Mr. Buchanan of Mr. Markley’s wishes, was intended to
present to his (the General’s) mind the importance of his denial of the
rumor that he had said he would appoint Mr. Adams. In all that scene of
intrigue—and apart from any thing said or done by the principal persons
concerned in that great struggle, there was intrigue—General Jackson
acted with the rigid integrity that belonged to his character. Mr.
Buchanan acted with no less integrity. He wished to prevent General
Jackson’s cause from being injured in the House and in the country, by
unfounded rumors with which the heated atmosphere of Washington was
filled; and he could have had no motive for seeking to make Mr. Clay
Secretary of State, at the expense of exposing General Jackson to the
same kind of rumor in regard to Mr. Clay which he was anxious to
counteract in regard to Mr. Adams.

After the publication of General Jackson’s letter to Mr. Beverley, Mr.
Buchanan wrote to a friend as follows:

                     [MR. BUCHANAN TO MR. INGHAM.]

                                           LANCASTER, July 12, 1827.


I received yours yesterday evening, and hasten to give it an immediate
answer. With you, I regret the publication of General Jackson’s letter
to Mr. Beverley. It may do harm, but cannot do good. The conversation
which I held with the General will not sustain his letter, although it
may furnish a sufficient reason for his apprehensions. My single purpose
was to ascertain from him whether he had ever declared he would appoint
Mr. Adams Secretary of State in case he were elected President. As to
the propriety and policy of propounding this question to him, I had
reflected much, and had taken the advice of a distinguished Jackson man,
then high in office in Pennsylvania. I had no doubt at the time that my
question, if answered at all, would be answered in the negative; but I
wished it to come from himself that he stood uncommitted upon this

In my interview with the General (which, by the way, was in the street),
I stated the particulars of a conversation between Philip S. Markley and
myself, as one reason why he should answer the question which I had
propounded. Out of my repetition of this conversation the mistake must
have arisen. This conversation would be one link in the chain of
testimony, but of itself it is altogether incomplete.

How General Jackson could have believed I came to him as an emissary
from Mr. Clay or his friends to make a corrupt bargain with him in their
behalf, I am at a loss to determine. He could not have received the
impression until after Mr. Clay and his friends had actually elected Mr.
Adams, and Adams had appointed Clay Secretary of State. Although I
continued to be upon terms of the strictest intimacy with General
Jackson whilst he continued at Washington, and have corresponded with
him occasionally since, he has never adverted to the subject. From the
terms of his letters to me, I never could have suspected that he for a
moment supposed me capable of becoming the agent in such a negotiation.
The idea that such was his impression never once flitted across my mind.

When regularly called upon, I need not tell you that I shall speak the
truth. If the matter be properly managed, it will not injure General
Jackson; but I can readily conceive that such a course may be taken in
relation to it by some of our friends, as will materially injure his

                                 From your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

At about this time, Mr. Clay publicly disclaimed all knowledge
respecting the interview between Mr. Buchanan and General Jackson, and
the latter then wrote to Mr. Buchanan the following explanatory letter:

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                           HERMITAGE, July 15, 1827.


You will see from the enclosed publication of Mr. Clay repelling the
statement made by me respecting the propositions said to have been made
by his friends to mine and to me, and intended to operate upon the last
election for President, that it becomes necessary for the public to be
put in possession of the facts. In doing this you are aware of the
position which you occupy, and which, I trust, you will sustain when
properly called on. Ever since the publication, and the inquiry before
the House of Representatives in January and February, 1825, questions
have been propounded from various sources calculated to draw from me the
information I had upon that unpleasant subject. Many, no doubt with
sinister views, placing me in selfish connection with the facts from my
accustomed silence, have sought to fortify the character of Mr. Clay.
But in a number of cases, where inquiry seemed to be prompted by a frank
and generous desire to obtain the truth, I felt myself bound to answer
in a corresponding spirit, and accordingly the statement made by you to
me has been on several occasions repeated, as it was to Mr. Beverley,
who visited me at my house, where he found a number of his friends and

Having remained all night, in the morning, conversing on politics, the
question so often put to me before was asked by Mr. Beverley. It was
answered. Mr. Beverley went to Nashville and wrote to his friend in
North Carolina, who it appears published his letter. On the 15th of May
last, he wrote me from Louisville, requesting to be informed whether the
statement made by him was correct, and observing that his letter was not
intended for publication. Not having seen the letter, as published,
there was no safe alternative for me but that adopted, of making the
statement, as you will see in the enclosed paper.

I shall now, in reply to Mr. Clay’s appeal, give my authority,
accompanied by the statement you made to Major John H. Eaton and to Mr.
Kremer, and leave Mr. Clay to his further inquiries. He cannot be
indulged by me in a paper war, or newspaper discussion. Had his friends
not voted out Mr. McDuffie’s resolutions when Mr. Clay threw himself
upon the House, the truth or falsehood of these statements would have
been made manifest, and the public mind now at rest upon the subject.
That they did, will appear, reference being had to the _National
Journal_ of the 5th of February, 1825. You will recollect that Mr.
McDuffie moved to instruct the Committee to inquire whether the friends
of Mr. Clay had hinted that they would fight for those who paid best,
and whether overtures were said to have been made by the friends of Mr.
Clay, offering him the appointment of Secretary of State for his
influence, and to elect Mr. Adams, and whether his friends gave this
information to the friends of General Jackson and hinted that if the
friends of Jackson would close with them, &c., &c., giving the Committee
the power to examine on oath.

I have no doubt, when properly called on, you will come forth and offer
me the statement made to Major Eaton, then to Mr. Kremer, and then to
me, and give the names of the friends of Mr. Clay who made it to you.

I will thank you to acknowledge the receipt of this letter on its
reaching you.

I have the honor to be, with great respect,

                                      Your obedient servant,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

Early in August, 1827, Mr. Buchanan published a card in the Lancaster
_Journal_, embodying the recollections which I have given, but which it
is not necessary to reproduce; and after a brief but inconclusive reply
from Mr. Markley, the matter passed out of the public mind. Later in the
same year (1827) Mr. Clay published an elaborate vindication of his
conduct, in the course of which he thus refers to Mr. Buchanan:

“In General Jackson’s letter to Mr. Beverley, of the 6th of June last,
he admits that in inferring my privity to the proposition which he
describes as borne by Mr. Buchanan, he may have done me injustice; and,
in his address to the public of the 18th of July last, giving up the
name of this gentleman as his only witness, he repeats that he possibly
may have done me injustice, in assuming my authority for that
proposition. He even deigns to honor me with a declaration of the
pleasure which he will experience if I should be able to acquit myself!
Mr. Buchanan has been heard by the public; and I feel justified in
asserting that the first impression of the whole nation was, as it is
yet that of every intelligent mind unbiased by party prejudice, that his
testimony fully exonerated me, and demonstrated that General Jackson, to
say no more, had greatly misconceived the purport of the interview
between them. And further: that so far as any thing improper was
disclosed by Mr. Buchanan touching the late Presidential election, it
affected General Jackson and his friends exclusively. He having
manifestly injured me, speculation was busy, when Mr. Buchanan’s
statement appeared, as to the course which the General would pursue,
after his gratuitous expression of sympathy with me. There were not
wanting many persons who believed that his magnanimity would prompt him
publicly to retract his charge, and to repair the wrong which he had
done me. I did not participate in that just expectation, and therefore
felt no disappointment that it was not realized. Whatever other merits
he may possess, I have not found among them, in the course of my
relations with him, that of forbearing to indulge vindictive passions.
His silent contemplation of, if not his positive acquiescence in, the
most extraordinary interpretation of Mr. Buchanan’s statement that ever
was given to human language, has not surprised me. If it had been
possible for him to render me an act of spontaneous justice by a frank
and manly avowal of his error, the testimony now submitted to the public
might have been unnecessary.

                     [MR. BUCHANAN TO MR. INGHAM.]

                                          LANCASTER, August 9, 1827.


Ere this can reach you, you will have seen General Jackson’s letter to
the public, in which he has given up my name. It will at once strike you
to be a most extraordinary production as far as I am concerned. My
statement will appear in the Lancaster _Journal_ to-morrow, which I
shall send you. I have not suffered my feelings to get the better of my
judgment, but have stated the truth in a calm and temperate manner. If
General Jackson and our editors shall act with discretion, the storm may
blow over without injuring [any one]. Should they, on the contrary,
force me to the wall and make it absolutely necessary for the
preservation of my own character to defend myself, I know not what may
be the consequence.

I have stated the conversation between Markley and myself in as strong
terms as the truth would justify, but no stronger. It is in your power
to do much to give this matter a proper direction. Indeed I would
suggest to you the propriety of an immediate visit to Philadelphia for
that purpose. My friends are very indignant, but I believe I can keep
them right.

You will perceive that General Jackson has cited Mr. Eaton as a witness.
I have treated this part of his letter with great mildness. In a letter
to me, which I received day before yesterday, the General intimates that
George Kremer would confirm his statement. This letter is imprudent,
and, in my opinion, an improper one. It is well it has fallen into the
hands of a political friend.

You will discover that your knowledge concerning my conversation with
General Jackson was nearly correct. The friend who wrote me the letter
of the 27th December, 1824, referred to in my communication, was Judge
Rogers, then Secretary of State [of Pennsylvania].

                                   From your sincere friend,

 MR. INGHAM.                                             JAMES BUCHANAN.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                         LANCASTER, August 10, 1827.


I received your letter of the 15th ultimo on Tuesday last. Your address
to the public also reached me upon the same day, in the Cincinnati
_Advertiser_. This communication made it necessary for me to publish in
detail the conversation which I held with you concerning the
Presidential election on the 30th December, 1824. I shall enclose to you
in this letter that part of the Lancaster _Journal_ containing it. I
regret, beyond expression, that you believed me to be an emissary from
Mr. Clay, since some time before the first Harrisburg convention which
nominated you, I have ever been your ardent, decided, and, perhaps
without vanity I may say, your efficient friend. Every person in this
part of the State of Pennsylvania is well acquainted with the fact. It
is, therefore, to me a matter of the deepest regret that you should have
supposed me to be the “friend of Mr. Clay.” Had I ever entertained a
suspicion that such was your belief, I should have immediately corrected
your impression.

I shall annex to this letter a copy of that which I wrote to Duff Green,
on the 16th of October last. The person whom I consulted in Pennsylvania
was the present Judge Rogers of the Supreme Court—then the Secretary of
State of this Commonwealth.

The friends of the Administration are making great efforts in
Pennsylvania. We have been busily engaged during the summer in
counteracting them. Success has, I think, hitherto attended our efforts.
I do not fear the vote of the State, although it is believed every
member of the State administration, except General Bernard, is hostile
to your election. Your security will be in the gratitude and in the
hearts of the people.

Please to present my best respects to Mrs. Jackson, and believe me to
be, very respectfully, your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

This subject of Mr. Buchanan’s connection with the Presidential election
of 1824–5, and its incidents, passed out of the public mind, after the
publication of the letters which I have quoted. But it was again revived
when Mr. Buchanan became a candidate for the Presidency in 1856. All
that it is needful to say here is, that for nearly three years after the
election of 1824–5, no impression seems to have existed in the mind of
General Jackson that Mr. Buchanan’s interview with him in December,
1824, had any purpose but that which Mr. Buchanan has described; but
that in 1827, General Jackson, in the heat of the renewed controversies
about the supposed bargain between Mr. Adams and Mr. Clay, took up the
erroneous idea that Mr. Buchanan could, if he were to declare the truth,
make it apparent that Mr. Clay or his friends had attempted to effect
the same kind of bargain with General Jackson, which attempt was
indignantly repelled. A candid examination of the facts is all that is
needful to convince any one that the General was in error in 1827, and
that he was equally in error at a much later period. When he became
President, and for a long time thereafter, his confidence in Mr.
Buchanan was manifested in so many ways that one is led to believe that
his view in 1827 of Mr. Buchanan’s conduct in the matter of the
Presidential election of 1824–5 was an exceptional idiosyncrasy,
resulting from the excitement which his mind always felt in regard to
that event, and which was strongly renewed in him in 1827.

It will be necessary to advert to this subject again, because, when Mr.
Buchanan was a candidate for the Presidency in 1856, the whole story was
revived by persons who were unfriendly to him, and who then made use of
a private letter which was extracted from General Jackson in 1845, in a
somewhat artful manner, when he was laboring under a mortal illness. But
an account of this political intrigue belongs to the period when it was
set on foot.


Footnote 14:

  The phrase “Presidential Election” is an awkward and incorrect one.
  But it has been sanctioned by long usage, and I adopt it because of
  its convenience.

Footnote 15:

  Mr. Crawford was regarded as out of the question, both because he had
  less than one-half of the electoral votes, and because a recent
  paralytic affection was supposed to have rendered him incapable of
  performing the duties of the office.

Footnote 16:

  The person here alluded to was the Hon. Molton C. Rogers, Chairman of
  the State Central Committee at Harrisburg, and Secretary of the State
  of Pennsylvania. He was afterwards a Judge of the Supreme Court of
  that State.


                              CHAPTER IV.


The circumstances attending the election of Mr. Adams led to the
formation of a most powerful opposition to his administration, as soon
as he was inaugurated. The friends of General Jackson, a numerous and
compact body of public men, representing a much larger number of the
people of the Union than the friends of Mr. Adams could be said to
represent, felt that he had been unfairly deprived of the votes of
States in the House of Representatives which should have been given to
him. Especially was this the case, they said, in regard to the State of
Kentucky, whose Legislature had plainly indicated the wish of a majority
of her people that her vote in the House should be given to General
Jackson; and when it was announced that Mr. Adams, who had received the
unanimous electoral vote of only six States, had obtained the votes of
thirteen States in the House, while General Jackson had obtained but
seven, and when Mr. Clay had been appointed by Mr. Adams Secretary of
State, there was a bitterness of feeling among the supporters of General
Jackson, which evinced at once a fixed determination to elect him
President at the end of the ensuing four years.

In regard to the state of parties, viewed apart from the merely personal
element of leadership and following, there was not much, in the
beginning of Mr. Adams’s administration, to distinguish its supporters
from its opponents. In the course, however, of that administration,
those who defended it from the fierce assaults of the opposition, began
to take the name of National Republicans, while the opponents of the
administration began to call themselves Democrats. Included in the
opposition were the political friends and followers of Mr. Calhoun, and
the political friends and followers of General Jackson; the latter being
distinctly known and classified as “Jackson men.” In the Senate there
was a number of older men, who were not likely to form an active element
of parliamentary opposition or defence; such as Mr. Silsbee of
Massachusetts, Mr. Dickerson of New Jersey, Mr. Samuel Smith of
Maryland, Mr. William Smith of South Carolina, Mr. Macon of Georgia, Mr.
Rowan of Kentucky, and Mr. Hugh L. White of Tennessee. The opposition in
the Senate was led by a younger class of men: Mr. Van Buren of New York,
Mr. Woodbury of New Hampshire, Mr. Tazewell of Virginia, Mr. Hayne of
South Carolina, Mr. Berrien of Georgia, and Mr. Benton of Missouri.[17]
But it was not in the Senate that the great arena of debate between the
assailants and the defenders of this administration was to be found
during the first year or two of its term. In the House, at the opening
of the 19th Congress, which began its session in December, 1825, there
was an array of combatants—ardent, active and able debaters. Of these,
composing the leaders of the opposition, were Mr. Buchanan, Samuel D.
Ingham, William C. Rives, James K. Polk, John Forsyth, George McDuffie,
Edward Livingston, William Drayton, William S. Archer, Andrew Stevenson,
Mangum, Cambreleng, and Louis McLane. The eccentric John Randolph was
also one of the leaders of the opposition. The leading friends of the
administration were Webster, Sprague, Bartlett, John Davis, Edward
Everett, Burgess, Taylor, Letcher, Wright, Vinton, and Henry L. Storrs.

Before the opposition had marshalled their forces for an attack upon the
administration, a debate occurred in the House of Representatives upon a
subject that did not involve party divisions. A bill was introduced by a
Pennsylvania member for the relief of the surviving officers of the
Revolution. It proposed an appropriation of only one million of dollars,
and it was confined strictly to the cases of the Revolutionary officers
to whom half-pay for life had been granted by Congress in 1780, who had
afterwards accepted a commutation of five years’ full pay, in lieu of
half-pay for life, and who were paid in certificates that were never
worth more than one-fifth of their nominal value, and which were soon
depreciated to about one-eighth. The passage of this measure depended
upon the prudence and skill of those who favored it. The mover, Mr.
Hemphill of Pennsylvania, and Mr. Dayton, had advocated the bill in
speeches of much discretion, and there was a good prospect of its
adoption. In this state of things, an untoward amendment was offered by
a member from Massachusetts, which proposed to increase the
appropriation. This had a manifest tendency to defeat the bill; and at
this crisis Mr. Buchanan came forward to restate the case of the
officers, and to replace the measure on its true footing. He said:

“It is with extreme reluctance I rise at this time to address you. I
have made no preparation to speak, except that of carefully reading the
documents which have been laid upon our tables; but a crisis seems to
have arrived in this debate, when the friends of the bill, if ever, must
come forward in its support. I do not consider that the claim of the
officers of the Revolution rests upon gratitude alone. It is not an
appeal to your generosity only, but to your justice. You owe them a
debt, in the strictest sense of the word; and of a nature so
meritorious, that, if you shall refuse to pay it, the nation will be
disgraced. Formerly, when their claim was presented to Congress, we had,
at least, an apology for rejecting it. The country was not then in a
condition to discharge this debt without inconvenience. But now, after
forty years have elapsed since its creation, with a treasury
overflowing, and a national debt so diminished, that, with ordinary
economy, it must, in a very few years, be discharged, these officers,
the relics of that band which achieved your independence, again present
themselves before you, and again ask you for justice. They do not ask
you to be generous—they do not ask you to be grateful—but they ask you
to pay the debt which was the price of your independence. I term it a
debt; and it is one founded upon a most solemn contract, with which
these officers have complied, both in its letter and in its spirit,
whilst you have violated all its obligations.

“Let us spend a few moments in tracing the history of this claim. It
arose out of the distresses of the Continental Army, during the
Revolutionary War; and the utter inability of the government, at that
time, to relieve them. What, sir, was the situation of that army, when
it lay encamped at the Valley Forge? They were naked, and hungry, and
barefoot. Pestilence and famine stalked abroad throughout the camp. The
first blaze of patriotism which had animated the country, and furnished
the army with its officers, had begun to die away. These officers
perceived that the contest would be long, and bloody, and doubtful. They
had felt, by sad experience, that the depreciated pay which they
received, so far from enabling them to impart assistance to their wives
and children, or hoard up anything for futurity, was not sufficient to
supply their own absolute and immediate wants. Placed in this situation,
they were daily sending in their resignations, and abandoning the cause
of their country. In this alarming crisis, Washington earnestly
recommended to Congress to grant the officers half-pay, to commence
after the close of the contest, as the only remedy for these evils,
within their power. The country was not then able to remunerate the
officers for the immense and unequal sacrifices which they were making
in its cause. All that it could then do was to present them a prospect
of happier days to come, on which hope might rest. With this view,
Congress, in May, 1778, adopted a resolution allowing the officers who
should continue in service until the end of the war, half-pay for seven
years. This resolution produced but a partial effect upon the army. The
time of its continuance was to be but short; and there were conditions
annexed to it, which, in many cases, would have rendered it entirely

“In August, 1779, Congress again acted upon this subject, and resolved,
‘That it be recommended to the several States to grant half-pay for life
to the officers who should continue in the service to the end of the
war.’ This recommendation was disregarded by every State in the Union,
with one exception; and I feel proud that Pennsylvania was that State.
She not only granted half-pay for life to the officers of her own line,
but she furnished them with clothing and with provisions. Thus, when the
General Government became unable to discharge its duty to her officers
and soldiers, she voluntarily interposed and relieved their distresses.
General Washington, when urging upon Congress the necessity of granting
to the officers half-pay for life, pointed to those of the Pennsylvania
line as an example of the beneficial consequences which had resulted
from that measure.[18]

“Congress at length became convinced of the necessity of granting to the
Continental officers half-pay for life. Without pay and without
clothing, they had become disheartened and were about abandoning the
service. The darkest period of the Revolution had arrived, and there was
but one ray of hope left to penetrate the impending gloom which hung
over the army. The officers were willing still to endure privations and
sufferings, if they could obtain an assurance that they would be
remembered by their country, after it should be blessed with peace and
independence. They well knew Congress could not relieve their present
wants; all, therefore, they asked was the promise of a future provision.
Congress, at length, in October, 1780, resolved, ‘That half-pay for life
be granted to the officers in the army of the United States who shall
continue in service to the end of the war.’

“Before the adoption of this resolution, so desperate had been our
condition, that even Washington apprehended a dissolution of the army,
and had begun to despair of the success of our cause. We have his
authority for declaring that, immediately after its adoption, our
prospects brightened and it produced the most happy effects. The state
of the army was instantly changed. The officers became satisfied with
their condition, and, under their command, the army marched to victory
and independence. They faithfully and patriotically performed every
obligation imposed upon them by the solemn contract into which they had
entered with their country.

“How did you perform this contract on your part? No sooner had the
dangers of war ceased to threaten our existence—no sooner had peace
returned to bless our shores, than we forgot those benefactors to whom,
under Providence, we owed our independence. We then began to discover
that it was contrary to the genius of our Republican institutions to
grant pensions for life. The jealousy of the people was roused, and
their fears excited. They dreaded the creation of a privileged order. I
do not mean to censure them for this feeling of ill-directed jealousy,
because jealousy is the natural guardian of liberty.

“In this emergency, how did the Continental officers act? In such a
manner as no other officers of a victorious army had ever acted before.
For the purpose of allaying the apprehensions of their fellow-citizens,
and complying with the wishes of Congress, they consented to accept five
years’ full-pay in commutation for their half-pay for life. This
commutation was to be paid in money, or securities were to be given on
interest at six per cent., as Congress should find most convenient.

“Did the government ever perform this their second stipulation to the
officers? I answer, no. The gentleman from Tennessee was entirely
mistaken in the history of the times, when he asserted that the
commutation certificates of the officers enabled them to purchase farms,
or commence trade, upon leaving the army. Congress had not any funds to
pledge for their redemption. They made requisitions upon the States,
which shared the same fate with many others, and were entirely
disregarded. The faith and the honor of the country, whilst they were
intrusted to thirteen independent and jealous State sovereignties, were
almost always forfeited. We then had a General Government which had not
the power of enforcing its own edicts. The consequence was that, when
the officers received their certificates, they were not worth more than
about one-fifth of their nominal value, and they very soon fell to
one-eighth of that amount.

“Let gentlemen for a moment realize what must then have been the
situation and the feelings of these officers. They had spent their best
days in the service of their country. They had endured hardships and
privations without an example in history. Destitute of everything but
patriotism, they had lived for years upon the mere promise of Congress.
At the call of their country, they had relinquished half-pay for life,
and accepted a new promise of five years’ full-pay. When they had
confidently expected to receive this recompense, it vanished from their
grasp. Instead of money, or securities equal to money, which would have
enabled them to embark with advantage in civil employments, they
obtained certificates which necessity compelled most of them to sell at
the rate of eight for one. The government proved faithless, but they
had, what we have not, the plea of necessity, to justify their conduct.

“In 1790, the provision which was made by law for the payment of the
public debt, embraced these commutation certificates. They were funded,
and the owner of each of them received three certificates; the first for
two-thirds of the original amount, bearing an interest immediately of
six per cent.; the second for the remaining third, but without interest
for ten years; and the third for the interest which had accumulated,
bearing an interest of only three per cent.

“What does this bill propose? Not to indemnify the officers of the
Revolution for the loss which they sustained in consequence of the
inability of the government, at the close of the war, to comply with its
solemn contract. Not, after a lapse of more than forty years, to place
them in the situation in which they would have been placed had the
government been able to do them justice. It proposes to allow them even
less than the difference between what the owners of the commutation
certificates received under the funding system, and what these
certificates when funded were worth upon their face. My colleague has
clearly shown, by a fair calculation, that the allowance will fall
considerably short of this difference. If the question now before the
committee were to be decided by the people of the United States instead
of their Representatives, could any man, for a moment, doubt what would
be their determination?

“I hope my friend from Massachusetts will not urge the amendment he has
proposed. Judging from past experience, I fear, if it should prevail,
the bill will be defeated. Let other classes of persons who think
themselves entitled to the bounty of their country present their claims
to this House, and they will be fairly investigated. This is what the
surviving officers of the Revolution have done. Their case has been
thoroughly examined by a committee, who have reported in its favor; and
all the information necessary to enable us to decide correctly is now in
our possession. I trust their claim will be permitted to rest upon its
own foundation. They are old, and for the most part in poverty; it is
necessary, if we act at all, that we act speedily, and do them justice
without delay. In my opinion, they have a better claim to what this bill
contemplates giving them, than any of us have to our eight dollars per
day. Gentlemen need apprehend no danger from the precedent; we shall
never have another Revolutionary war for independence. We have no reason
to apprehend we shall ever again be unable to pay our just debts. Even
if that should again be our unfortunate condition, we shall never have
another army so patient and so devoted as to sacrifice every selfish
consideration for the glory, the happiness, and the independence of
their country. I shall vote against the proposed amendment because I
will do no act which may have a tendency to defeat this bill.”

Mr. Buchanan used to relate, in after years, that at this juncture, the
friends of the bill were dismayed by the course of Mr. Everett, who was
then a young member from Massachusetts, and who wished to make and
insisted upon making a rhetorical speech. The friends of the bill
remonstrated with him, that all had been said that needed to be said;
and that the only thing to be done was to vote down the amendment, after
which the bill was almost certain to be passed. But Mr. Everett
persisted, and made his speech while the amendment was pending.[19] He
“demanded” of the House to pass the bill, and by passing it as proposed
to be amended by his colleague to give the survivors of the Revolution
“all they ask and _more_ than they ask.” The consequence was that the
appropriation was increased. Then a member from New York moved to extend
its provisions to every militia-man who had served for a certain time.
Then other amendments embraced widows and orphans, artificers and
musicians, the troops who fought at Bunker Hill, the troops raised in
Vermont, those of the battles of Saratoga and Bennington, and of the
Southern battles. The enemies of the original measure promoted this
method of dealing with it, and finally, when thus loaded down with
provisions not at all germane to its real principle, it was recommitted
to the Committee and was therefore lost.

The first important subject of contention on which the opposition put
forth their strength against the administration of Mr. Adams related to
what was called “The Panama Mission.” In his Message of December, 1825,
the President made the following announcement:

“Among the measures which have been suggested to the Spanish-American
Republics by the new relations with one another resulting from the
recent changes of their condition, is that of assembling at the Isthmus
of Panama, a Congress at which each of them should be represented, to
deliberate upon objects important to the welfare of all. The republics
of Colombia, of Mexico, and of Central America, have already deputed
plenipotentiaries to such a meeting, and they have invited the United
States to be also represented there by their ministers. The invitation
has been accepted, and ministers on the part of the United States will
be commissioned to attend at those deliberations, and to take part in
them, so far as may be compatible with that neutrality from which it is
neither our intention nor the desire of the other American States that
we should depart.”

It was, beyond controversy, the constitutional prerogative of the
President, as the organ of all intercourse with foreign nations, to
accept this invitation, and to name Ministers to the proposed Congress.
The Senate might or might not concur with him in this step, and might or
might not confirm the nominations of the proposed Ministers. He sent to
the Senate the names of John Sergeant of Philadelphia, and Richard C.
Anderson of Kentucky, as the Ministers of the United States to the
proposed Congress at Panama. The Senatorial opposition, led by Mr.
Benton and Mr. Tazewell, after a long discussion in secret session, took
a vote upon a resolution that it was inexpedient to send Ministers to
Panama. This was rejected by a vote of 24 to 19; and the nominations
were then confirmed by a vote of 27 to 17 in the case of Mr. Anderson,
and by a vote of 26 to 18 in the case of Mr. Sergeant. The diplomatic
department having thus fully acted upon and confirmed the proposed
measure, it remained for the House of Representatives to initiate and
pass the necessary appropriation. The turn that was given to the subject
in the House gave rise to an animated debate on a very important
constitutional topic, in which Mr. Buchanan, although opposed to the
Mission, asserted it to be the duty of the House to make the
appropriation, now that the Senate had confirmed the appointment of the
Ministers. This debate began upon a resolution reported by the Committee
on Foreign Affairs, that “in the opinion of the House it is expedient to
appropriate the funds necessary to enable the President of the United
States to send Ministers to the Congress of Panama.” To this resolution,
Mr. McLane of Delaware had moved an amendment, which, if it had been
adopted, would have placed the House of Representatives in the anomalous
attitude of annexing, as a condition of its grant, instructions as to
the mode in which the diplomatic agents of the United States were to act
in carrying out a foreign mission. Mr. Buchanan, who was in favor of the
amendments, was also in favor of making the appropriation necessary to
enable the President to send the Mission; and in support of this
constitutional duty of the House, he made an argument on the 11th of
April (1826) which drew from Mr. Webster the compliment that he had
placed this part of the subject in a point of view which could not be
improved.[20] Mr. Buchanan said:

“I know there are several gentlemen on this floor, who approve of the
policy of the amendments proposed, and wish to express an opinion in
their favor; and who yet feel reluctant to vote for them, because it is
their intention finally to support the appropriation bill. They think,
if the amendments should be rejected, consistency would require them to
refuse any grant of money to carry this mission into effect. I shall,
therefore, ask the attention of the committee, whilst I endeavor to
prove that there would not, in any event, be the slightest inconsistency
in this course.

“I assert it to be a position susceptible of the clearest proof, that
the House of Representatives is morally bound, unless in extreme cases,
to vote the salaries of Ministers who have been constitutionally created
by the President and Senate. The expediency of establishing the mission
was one question, which has already been decided by the competent
authority; when the appropriation bill shall come before us, we will be
called upon to decide another and a very different question. Richard C.
Anderson and John Sergeant have been regularly nominated by the
President of United States to be Envoys Extraordinary and Ministers
Plenipotentiary ‘to the Assembly of American nations at Panama.’ The
Senate, after long and solemn deliberation, have advised and consented
to their appointment. These Ministers have been created—they have been
called into existence under the authority of the Constitution of the
United States. That venerated instrument declares, that the President
‘shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to
make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur: and
he shall nominate, and, by and with the advice and consent of the
Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls,
Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United
States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and
which shall be established by Law.’ What, then, will be the question
upon the appropriation bill? In order to enable our Ministers to proceed
upon their mission, the President has asked us to grant the necessary
appropriation. Shall we incur the responsibility of refusing? Shall we
thus defeat the mission which has already been established by the only
competent constitutional authorities? This House has, without doubt, the
physical power to refuse the appropriation, and it possesses the same
power to withhold his salary from the President of the United States.
The true question is, what is the nature of our constitutional
obligation? Are we not morally bound to pay the salaries given by
existing laws to every officer of the Government? By the act of the
first May, 1810, the outfit and salary to be allowed by the President to
Foreign Ministers are established. Such Ministers have been regularly
appointed to attend the Congress at Panama. What right then have we to
refuse to appropriate the salaries which they have a right to receive,
under the existing laws of the land?

“I admit there may be extreme cases, in which this House would be
justified in withholding such an appropriation. ‘The safety of the
people is the supreme law.’ If, therefore, we should believe any mission
to be dangerous, either to the existence or to the liberties of this
country, necessity would justify us in breaking the letter to preserve
the spirit of the Constitution. The same necessity would equally justify
us in refusing to grant to the President his salary, in certain extreme
cases, which might easily be imagined.

“But how far would your utmost power extend? Can you re-judge the
determination of the President and Senate, and destroy the officers
which they have created? Might not the President immediately send these
Ministers to Panama; and, if he did, would not their acts be valid? It
is certain, if they should go, they run the risk of never receiving a
salary; but still they might act as Plenipotentiaries. By withholding
the salary of the President, you cannot withhold from him the power;
neither can you, by refusing to appropriate for this mission, deprive
the Ministers of their authority. It is beyond your control to make them
cease to be Ministers.

“The constitutional obligation to provide for a Minister, is equally
strong as that to carry into effect a treaty. It is true, the evils
which may flow from your refusal may be greater in the one case than the
other. If you refuse to appropriate for a treaty, you violate the faith
of the country to a foreign nation. You do no more, however, than omit
to provide for the execution of an instrument which is declared by the
Constitution to be the supreme law of the land. In the case which will
be presented to you by the appropriation bill, is the nature of your
obligation different? I think not. The power to create the Minister is
contained in the same clause of the Constitution with that to make the
treaty. They are powers of the same nature. The one is absolutely
necessary to carry the other into effect. You cannot negotiate treaties
without Ministers. They are the means by which the treaty-making power
is brought into action. You are, therefore, under the same moral
obligation to appropriate money to discharge the salary of a Minister,
that you would be to carry a treaty into effect.

“If you ask me for authority to establish these principles, I can refer
you to the opinion of the first President of the United States—the
immortal Father of his Country—who, in my humble judgment, possessed
more practical wisdom, more political foresight, and more useful
constitutional knowledge, than all his successors.

“I have thus, I think, established the position, that gentlemen who vote
for the amendments now before the committee, even if they should not
prevail, may, without inconsistency, give their support to the
appropriation bill.”

Sound as this was, it is a little remarkable that Mr. Buchanan should
not have considered that the duty of voting the necessary appropriation
precluded the House of Representatives from dictating what subjects the
Ministers were to discuss or not to discuss. Those who favored the
proposed amendments founded themselves on the legal maxim that he who
has the power to give may annex to the gift whatever condition he
chooses. This was well answered by Mr. Webster, that in making
appropriations for such purposes the House did not make gifts, but
performed a duty. The amendments were rejected on the 21st of April, and
on the following day the Panama Appropriation Bill was passed, Mr.
Buchanan voting with the majority.[21]

Some of the topics incidentally touched upon in the discursive debate on
this Panama Mission are of little interest now. But one may be referred
to, because it related to the dangerous topic of slavery. An
apprehension was felt by those who were opposed to this measure, and by
Mr. Buchanan, among others, that the Spanish-American Republics, more
particularly Mexico and Colombia, might concert measures at this
proposed Congress to seize the West India Islands, and raise there the
standard of emancipation and social revolution. Those who entertained
this apprehension, therefore, did not wish to see the moral and
political influence of this proposed Congress increased by the
participation of the United States in its proceedings. It may have been
an unfounded fear; but in truth, excepting in so far as the objects of
this assembly were understood and explained by the American
Administration itself, very little was known of the purposes entertained
by its original projectors. It was certainly not unnatural, in the then
condition of our own country, and of the West Indies, in regard to the
matter of slavery, that public men in the United States should have been
cautious in regard to this exciting topic. At all events, it was
introduced incidentally, in the discussion on the proposed Mission, and
Mr. Buchanan thus expressed himself upon it:

“Permit me here, for a moment, to speak upon a subject to which I have
never before adverted upon this floor, and to which, I trust, I may
never again have occasion to advert. I mean the subject of slavery. I
believe it to be a great political and a great moral evil. I thank God,
my lot has been cast in a State where it does not exist. But, while I
entertain these opinions, I know it is an evil at present without a
remedy. It has been a curse entailed upon us by that nation which now
makes it a subject of reproach to our institutions. It is, however, one
of those moral evils, from which it is impossible for us to escape,
without the introduction of evils infinitely greater. There are portions
of this Union, in which, if you emancipate your slaves, they will become
masters. There can be no middle course. Is there any man in this Union
who could, for a moment, indulge in the horrible idea of abolishing
slavery by the massacre of the high-minded, and the chivalrous race of
men in the South. I trust there is not one. For my own part I would,
without hesitation, buckle on my knapsack, and march in company with my
friend from Massachusetts (Mr. Everett) in defence of their cause.”[22]


Footnote 17:

  At a little later period, Mr. Webster was transferred from the House
  to the Senate, and became there one of the strongest and most
  conspicuous of the friends of the administration.

Footnote 18:

  Joint Resolutions of 13th and 24th March, 1779. See Journals, pages
  335, 336, 342. 1 Smith’s Laws, 487. Life of Joseph Reed, President of
  the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, Vol. II, p. 65.

Footnote 19:

  The peroration of Mr. Everett’s speech was as follows:

  “The present year completes the half century since the Declaration of
  Independence; and most devoutly do I hope, that, when the silver
  trumpet of our political jubilee sounds, it may be with a note of
  comfort and joy to the withered heart of the war-worn veteran of the
  Revolution. Our tardy provision will, indeed, come too late to help
  him through the hard journey of life; it will not come too late to
  alleviate the sorrows of age, and smooth the pillow of decline. It is
  the fiftieth year of our Independence. How much shall we read, how
  much shall we hear, how much, perhaps, we shall say this year, about
  the glorious exploits of our fathers, and the debt of gratitude we owe
  them. I do not wish this to be all talk. I want to do something. I
  want a substantial tribute to be paid them. Praise is sweet music,
  both to old and young; but I honestly confess that my mind relucts and
  revolts, by anticipation, at the thought of the compliments with which
  we are going to fill the ears of these poor veterans, while we leave
  their pockets empty, and their backs cold. If we cast out this bill, I
  do hope that some member of this House, possessing an influence to
  which I cannot aspire, will introduce another, to make it penal to say
  a word on the fourth of July, about the debt of gratitude which we owe
  to the heroes of the Revolution. Let the day and the topic pass in
  decent silence. I hate all gag-laws; but there is one thing I am
  willing to gag—the vaporing tongue of a bankrupt, who has grown rich,
  and talks sentiment, about the obligation he feels to his needy
  creditor, whom he paid off at 2s. 6d. in the pound.”

Footnote 20:

  In the course of his speech on the 14th of April, Mr. Webster said:
  “The gentleman from Pennsylvania, with whom I have great pleasure in
  concurring on this part of the case, while I regret that I differ with
  him on others, has placed this question in a point of view which can
  not be improved. These officers do indeed already exist. They are
  public ministers. If they were to negotiate a treaty, and the Senate
  should ratify it, it would become a law of the land, whether we voted
  their salaries or not. This shows that the Constitution never
  contemplated that the House of Representatives should act a part in
  originating negotiations or concluding treaties.” Mr. Webster made
  further observations, in confirmation of the views expressed by Mr.
  Buchanan on the duty of making the appropriation. (_Works of Daniel
  Webster_, Vol. III, p. 181.)

Footnote 21:

  The subsequent fate of this measure can be related very briefly. Mr.
  Anderson died at Carthagena, on his way to the isthmus of Panama. The
  “Congress” adjourned to meet at Tacuboya, a village near the city of
  Mexico. Mr. Poinsett was appointed in the place of Mr. Anderson, and
  Mr. Sargeant sailed for Vera Cruz on the 2d of December, 1826. He
  arrived in Mexico in January, 1827, and found a few fragments of the
  “Congress” floating about, without action or organization. Bolivar,
  who was supposed to have originated the project, had changed his mind.
  Mr. Sargeant remained for six months in Mexico, and in the summer of
  1827 returned home.

Footnote 22:

  This allusion to Mr. Everett requires some explanation. On the 9th of
  March, 1826, he made a speech on the proposed Constitutional
  Amendment, in the course of which he said:

  “I am not one of those citizens of the North who think it immoral and
  irreligious to join in putting down a servile insurrection at the
  South. I am no soldier, my habits and education are very un-military;
  but there is no cause in which I would sooner buckle a knapsack to my
  back, and put a musket on my shoulder, than that. I would cede the
  whole continent to any one who would take it—to England, to France, to
  Spain; I would see it sunk in the bottom of the ocean, before I would
  see any part of this fair America converted into a Continental Hayti,
  by that awful process of bloodshed and desolation, by which alone such
  a catastrophe could be brought on. The great relation of servitude, in
  some form or other, with greater or less departures from the theoretic
  equality of man, is inseparable from our nature. I know no way by
  which the form of this servitude shall be fixed, but by political
  institution. Domestic slavery, though, I confess, not that form of
  servitude which seems to be most beneficial to the master—certainly
  not that which is most beneficial to the servant—is not, in my
  judgment, to be set down as an immoral and irreligious relation. I
  cannot admit that Religion has but one voice to the slave, and that
  this voice is, ‘Rise against your master.’ No, Sir, the New Testament
  says, ‘Slaves obey your masters,’ and though I know full well that, in
  the benignant operations of Christianity, which gathered master and
  slave around the same communion table, this unfortunate institution
  disappeared in Europe, yet I cannot admit that, while it subsists, and
  where it subsists, its duties are not pre-supposed and sanctioned by
  religion. I certainly am not called upon to meet the charges brought
  against this institution, yet truth obliges me to say a word more on
  the subject. I know the condition of the working classes in other
  countries, and I have no hesitation in saying that I believe the
  slaves of this country are better clothed and fed, and less hardly
  worked, than the peasantry of some of the most prosperous States of
  the continent of Europe.”


                               CHAPTER V.


The 20th Congress, which assembled in December, 1827, opened with a
great increase in the forces of the opposition. The elections in the
autumn of 1826 evinced an extraordinary growth of General Jackson’s
popularity. Mr. Adams found himself in a minority in both branches of
Congress. In the House, the opponents of his administration numbered 111
members, its friends 94. It is quite probable, however, that but for the
indiscretion of certain members who have ranked as friends of the
administration, the angry and criminating discussion of the subject of
“retrenchment,” which was deprecated by the wisest men of the
opposition, but into which they were forced, would not have occurred. It
was precipitated by the defiant attitude of two or three members who
should have allowed the cool leaders of the opposition to strangle it,
as they were at first disposed to do. But once commenced, it drew into
bitter strife the excited elements of party and personal warfare, and
went on through nearly a whole session with little credit to some who
participated in it, but in the end to the great and not altogether just
damage of the administration.

It happened that on the 22d of January (1828) a member from Kentucky,
Mr. Chilton, an earnest “Jackson man,” who had formerly been a clergyman
but was now a politician, introduced in the House certain resolutions
instructing the Committee of Ways and Means to report what offices could
be abolished, what salaries reduced, and other modes of curtailing the
expenses of the government. It is apparent that this could not have been
a step taken by concert with the leaders of the opposition. A party that
was daily growing in strength, and that was almost morally certain to
overthrow the party of the administration, and to elect the next
President, could have had no motive for shackling themselves with a
legislative measure reducing the number of offices or the salaries of
the officers that must be retained. They could not know in advance how
they could carry on the government, and it would be mere folly for them
to put laws on the statute-book framed while they were not charged with
the duties of administration, and suggested only as a topic for exciting
popular discontent against those who were responsible neither for the
existing number of offices nor for the salaries paid to them.
“Retrenchment,” as a popular cry, was not a movement which the leading
men of the opposition in the House of Representatives either needed or
desired to initiate. Mr. McDuffie, the chairman of the Committee of Ways
and Means, and a vehement opponent of the administration, objected to
Mr. Chilton’s resolutions at the outset. So did Mr. Buchanan; and the
latter often said, in subsequent years, that they would have been
crushed out of all consideration, if the friends of the administration
had left them in the hands of its opponents. They were moved by an
inconsiderable member, who was one of the stragglers of the opposition
forces, and they were met by administration members who were about
equally inconsiderable, in a tone of challenge and defiance. In vain did
Mr. McDuffie and Mr. Buchanan contend that the present was no time to
discuss the expenditures of the government. In vain did the most
considerable and important friends of the administration deprecate an
unprofitable, intolerant, and useless debate. The mover of the
resolutions would not be silenced, and the few indiscreet supporters of
the administration, who demanded that their discussion should go on,
would not permit them to receive their proper quietus by the application
of “the previous question.” Never was a deliberative body drawn, in
spite of the unwillingness of its best members on both sides, into a
more unseemly and profitless discussion.

Among the friends of General Jackson who deprecated and endeavored to
put a stop to this discussion was Mr. Edward Livingston of Louisiana,
the oldest member of the House, and a person of great distinction. He
made an earnest appeal to the House to end the whole matter by referring
the resolutions to a committee without further debate. This was not
acceded to by the friends of the administration, who wished to continue
the discussion. Mr. Edward Everett, then a young member from
Massachusetts, moved an adjournment after Mr. Livingston’s effort to
terminate the whole discussion, in order to make a speech, which he
delivered on the 1st of February. Mr. Buchanan said in reply to him:
“This debate would have ended on Thursday last, after the solemn appeal
for that purpose, which was made to the House by the venerable gentleman
from Louisiana, had not the gentleman from Massachusetts himself
prevented it by moving an adjournment. That gentleman ought to know that
he can never throw himself into any debate without giving it fresh vigor
and importance.”

In the course of this speech, Mr. Buchanan made some allusion to the
alleged “bargain and corruption” by which Mr. Adams had been made
President; and he thus touched upon the only important consideration
that could be said to belong to the circumstances of that election:

“Before, however, I commence my reply to that gentleman, I beg leave to
make a few observations on the last Presidential election. I shall
purposely pass over every charge which has been made, that it was
accomplished by bargain and sale or by actual corruption. If that were
the case, I have no knowledge of the fact, and shall therefore say
nothing about it. I shall argue this question as though no such charges
had ever been made. So far as it regards the conduct which the people of
the United States ought to pursue, at the approaching election, I agree
entirely with the eloquent gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Randolph] (I
cannot with propriety call him my friend), that it can make no
difference whether a bargain existed or not. Nay, in some aspects in
which the subject may be viewed, the danger to the people would be the
greater, if no corruption had existed. It is true, that this
circumstance ought greatly to influence our individual opinions of the
men who now wield the destinies of the Republic; but yet the precedent
would be at least equally dangerous in the one case as in the other. If
flagrant and gross corruption had existed, every honest man would start
from it with instinctive horror, and the people would indignantly hurl
those men from the seats of power, who had thus betrayed their dearest
interests. If the election were pure, there is, therefore, the greater
danger in the precedent. I believe, in my soul, that the precedent which
was established at the last Presidential election, ought to be reversed
by the people, and this is one of my principal reasons for opposing the
re-election of the present Chief Magistrate.

“Let us examine this subject more closely. General Jackson was returned
by the people of this country to the House of Representatives, with a
plurality of electoral votes. The distinguished individual who is now
the Secretary of State, was then the Speaker of this House. It is
perfectly well known, that, without his vote and influence, Mr. Adams
could not have been elected President. After the election, we beheld
that distinguished individual, and no man in the United States witnessed
the spectacle with more regret than I did, descending—yes, Sir, I say
descending—from the elevated station which you now occupy, into the
cabinet of the President whom he had elected.

                      “‘Quantum mutatus ab illo.’

“In the midnight of danger, during the darkest period of the late war,
‘his thrilling trump had cheered the land.’ Although among the great men
of that day there was no acknowledged leader upon this floor, yet I have
been informed, upon the best authority, that he was ‘primus inter
pares.’ I did wish, at a future time, to see him elevated still higher.
I am one of the last men in the country who could triumph over his
fallen fortunes. Should he ever return to what I believe to be correct
political principles, I shall willingly fight in the same ranks with him
as a companion—nay, after a short probation, I should willingly
acknowledge him as a leader. What brilliant prospects has that man not

“This precedent, should it be confirmed by the people at the next
election, will be one of most dangerous character to the Republic. The
election of President must, I fear, often devolve upon this House. We
have but little reason to expect that any amendment, in relation to this
subject, will be made to the Constitution in our day. There are so many
conflicting interests to reconcile, so many powers to balance, that,
when we consider the large majority in each branch of Congress, and the
still larger majority of States, required to amend the Constitution, the
prospect of any change is almost hopeless. I believe it will long remain
just as it is. What an example, then, will this precedent, in the pure
age of the Republic, present to future times! The people owe it to
themselves, if the election must devolve upon this House, never to
sanction the principle that one of its members may accept, from the
person whom he has elected, any high office, much less the highest in
his gift. Such a principle, if once established, must, in the end,
destroy the purity of this House, and convert it into a corrupt
electoral vote. If the individual to whom I have alluded, could elect a
President and receive from him the office of Secretary of State from the
purest motives, other men may, and hereafter will, pursue the same
policy from the most corrupt. ‘If they do these things in the green
tree, what shall be done in the dry?’

“This precedent will become a cover under which future bargains and
corrupt combinations will be sanctioned, under which the spirit of the
Constitution will be sacrificed to its letter.”

It is not needful to describe the topics of this discussion. Mr.
Chilton’s resolutions, after being somewhat amended, were sent to a
Select Committee on Retrenchment. The result was a majority and a
minority report, of which six thousand copies were printed and
circulated through the country. I turn from this subject to matters of
more importance.

Mr. Buchanan’s position in this Congress required him to exert his
powers as a debater more than ever before. The House of Representatives
was at this time a body in which real debate was carried on upon some
subjects, however the discussion on “retrenchment” may be characterized.
Its discussions on the tariff, commencing on the 4th of March and
terminating on the 15th of May, were conducted with great ability. Among
the best speeches on the tariff bill of this session, there is one by
Mr. Peleg Sprague of Maine, and one by Mr. Buchanan. Both exhibit a
great deal of research. Mr. Buchanan’s speech, begun in Committee of the
Whole on the 2d of April, in answer to Mr. Sprague, is an excellent
specimen of business debate. The details on which these two gentlemen
differed, and on which the debate between them and others chiefly
turned, are of little interest now; nor does any tariff debate afford
much development of permanent principles. So varying are the
circumstances which from time to time give rise to an application of the
doctrines that are indicated by the terms “free-trade” and “protection.”
Still there may be found in this tariff speech of Mr. Buchanan, matter
which is of some interest in his personal history as an American
statesman, because it shows that he had now risen to the rank of a
statesman, and because it gives his general views of what had at this
time become known as “the American System.”

Mr. Buchanan, on this occasion, felt that he was combating a disposition
to favor certain interests at the expense of others. In the debate on
the tariff of 1824, when Mr. Clay developed his views on the subject of
protection, and Mr. Webster found fault with the details of a measure
which he said could not be properly characterized as an American System,
Mr. Buchanan had shown that while he was ready to accede to a tariff for
the incidental protection of our own manufactures, he was not disposed
to carry the doctrines of protection so far as to injure the
agricultural classes; but that in imposing the duties necessary to
defray the expenses of the government, he should take care to benefit
indirectly both the manufacturing and the producing interests. In 1828
the proposed alterations of the tariff aimed at a more uniform operation
of the customs duties upon all the great interests of the country. A
motion made by Mr. Sprague, to strike from the bill an additional duty
of five cents per gallon on molasses, and twenty-five dollars per ton on
hemp, led to a discussion on the navigating interests, as affected by
such an amendment, and the whole subject of what was meant by protection
and “the American system” came up afresh. The following extracts from
Mr. Buchanan’s speech afford fair specimens of his manner of dealing
with this subject:

I shall cheerfully submit to the public judgment whether the bill,
although I dislike the minimum principle which it contains, does not
afford sufficient protection to the manufacturers of woolens. I think it
does; but I wish to be distinctly understood, in relation to myself,
that I always stand ready, in a fair spirit, to do everything in my
power to promote the passage of a just and judicious tariff, which shall
be adequate for their protection; and that, for the sake of
conciliation, and to effect this purpose, I am willing to sacrifice
individual opinion to a considerable extent.

What, Sir, is the American System? Is it the system advocated by the
gentleman from Maine, which would build up one species of domestic
industry at the expense of all the rest, which would establish a
prohibition and consequent monopoly in favor of the woolen manufacturer
whilst it denied all protection to the farmer? Certainly not. The
American System consists in affording equal and just legislative
protection to all the great interests of the country. It is no respecter
of persons. It does not distinguish between the farmer who plows the
soil in Pennsylvania and the manufacturer of wool in New England. Being
impartial, it embraces all. There is, in one respect, a striking
difference between the farmer, the merchant, and the manufacturer. The
farmer eating the bread of toil, but of independence, scarcely ever
complains. If he suffers, he suffers in silence; you rarely hear him,
upon this floor, asking redress for his grievances. He relies with that
confidence which belongs to his character upon the justice of his
country, and does not come here with importunate demands. The case is
different in regard to the manufacturer and the merchant. When they feel
themselves aggrieved—when they require the aid of your legislation, then
complaints ring throughout the country, from Georgia to Maine. They
never cease to ask, until they obtain. And shall this contented and
uncomplaining disposition of the great agricultural interest, be used as
an argument upon this floor against affording it relief? I trust not.

The gentleman from Maine has shown himself to be a true disciple of the
Harrisburg Convention School. Even that convention, although the chief
objects of their regard appeared to be wool and woolens, recommended
further protection to iron, hemp, flax, and the articles manufactured
from them, and to domestic distilled spirits. The gentleman from Maine
has moved to strike from the bill additional duties which it proposes
upon the importation of foreign hemp and molasses; and in his speech, he
has argued against any additional duties either upon iron, or steel, or
flax, or foreign spirits. In his opinion, therefore, the American System
can embrace no other interest except that of the growers and
manufacturers of wool.

[Here Mr. Sprague explained. He said his observations upon the other
items, besides those he had moved to strike from the bill, were only
intended to illustrate what would be their effect on the navigating

Mr. Buchanan resumed. I perceive, from the gentleman’s explanation, I
did not misunderstand his argument. If this be the American System, I
should like to know it as soon as possible; for then I shall be opposed
to it. I venture to assert that, if those with whom the gentleman from
Maine usually acts upon this floor have embraced the opinions which he
has avowed, it is a vain, a culpable waste of time to proceed further
with this discussion. Let the bill at once go to the tomb of all the
Capulets. If the New England manufacturer must be protected, whilst the
Pennsylvania farmer is abandoned—if this be the American System, instead
of being a mourner at its funeral, I shall rejoice that it has met the
fate which it deserved, and has been consigned to an early grave.

The Legislature of Pennsylvania has given us what, in my opinion, is the
correct version of the American System. They have declared that “the
best interests of our country demand that every possible exertion should
be made to procure the passage of an act of Congress imposing such
duties as will enable our manufacturers to enter into fair competition
with foreign manufacturers, and protect the farmer, the growers of hemp
and wool, and the distiller of spirits from domestic materials, against
foreign competition. The people of Pennsylvania do not ask for such a
tariff as would secure to any one class, or to any section of the
country, a monopoly. They want a system of protection which will extend
its blessings, as well as its burdens, as equally as possible over every
part of the Union; to be uniform in its operation upon the rich as well
as the poor.” They have therefore instructed their Senators, and
requested their Representatives, “to procure, if practicable, the
establishment of such a tariff as will afford additional protection to
our domestic manufactures, especially of woolen and fine cotton goods,
glass, and such other articles as, in their opinion, require the
attention of Congress, so as to enable our citizens fairly to compete
with foreign enterprise, capital, and experience, and give encouragement
to the citizens of the grain-growing States, by laying an additional
duty upon the importation of foreign spirits, flax, china ware, hemp,
wool, and bar iron.”

This resolution speaks a language which I am proud to hear from the
Legislature of my native State.

If it be the disposition of a majority of the members of this committee
to strike out of the bill iron, hemp, foreign spirits and molasses, no
Representative from the State of Pennsylvania, who regards either the
interest or the wishes of his constituents, will dare to vote for what
would then remain. The time has forever past when such a measure could
have received our sanction. We shall have no more exclusive tariffs for
the benefit of any one portion of the Union. The tariff of 1824 partook
much of this character; it contained no additional duty on foreign
spirits or molasses, and only added five dollars per ton to the duty on
foreign hemp. So far as the grain-growing States expected to derive
peculiar benefits from that measure, they have been, in a great degree,

What was the course which gentlemen pursued in relation to the woolen
bill of the last session? I endeavored to introduce into it a small
protection for our hemp and domestic spirits. We were then told that my
attempt would endanger the fate of the bill; that the period of the
session was too late to introduce amendments; and that if we would then
extend protection to the manufacturers of wool, a similar protection
should, at a future time, be extended to the agricultural interest of
the grain-growing States. My respectable colleague [Mr. Forward] has
informed the committee that he voted for the bill of the last session
under that delusion. How sadly the picture is now reversed! When an
interest in New England, which has been estimated at 40,000,000 of
dollars, is at stake, and is now about to sink, as has been alleged, for
want of adequate protection, it seems that gentlemen from that portion
of the Union would rather consign it to inevitable destruction than
yield the protection which the present bill will afford to the
productions of the Middle and Western States. If they are prepared to
act upon a policy so selfish, let them at once declare it, and not waste
weeks upon a bill which can never become a law.

The gentleman from Maine endeavored to sustain his motives by attempting
to prove that, if the duties proposed by the bill should be imposed upon
hemp and molasses, it would injure, nay, probably destroy the navigation
of the country. Indeed he pronounced its epitaph. It is gone! Five cents
per gallon upon molasses, and twenty-five dollars per ton upon hemp will
sink our navigating interest; will sweep our vessels from the ocean!
When I compare the storm of eloquence and of argument which the
gentleman has employed to strike out hemp and molasses from this bill,
with the object to be attained, he reminded me—

                 “Of ocean into tempest tost
                 To waft a feather or to drown a fly.”

An additional duty of five cents per gallon on molasses and twenty-five
dollars per ton upon hemp will consign the navigation of the country to
inevitable and almost immediate destruction! This is the kind of
argument which the gentleman has thought proper to address to the

The gentleman from Maine has said that our navigation goes abroad
unprotected to struggle against the world; and he has expatiated at
length upon this part of the subject. I trust I shall be able to prove,
without fatiguing the committee, that no interest belonging to this or
any other country ever received a more continued or a more efficient
protection than the navigation of the United States. I heartily approve
this policy. I would not, if I could, withdraw from it an atom of the
protection which it now enjoys. I shall never attempt to array the great
and leading interests of the country against each other. I am neither
the exclusive advocate of commerce, of manufactures, or of agriculture.
The American System embraces them all. I am the advocate of all. When,
therefore, I attempt to show to the committee the protection which has
been extended by this government to its navigation, I do it in reply to
the argument of the gentleman from Maine, and not in a spirit of
hostility to that important interest.

Mr. Buchanan then entered upon an elaborate historical examination of
the care for the interests of our navigation that had been exerted by
Congress from 1789 to the time when he was speaking.[23] On the subject
of the navy, as likely to be affected by measures that were complained
of for a tendency to depress the commercial marine, he said:

“The gentleman from Maine has used a most astonishing argument against
any further protection to hemp and flax and iron. We ought not further
to encourage our farmers to grow flax and hemp, nor our manufacturers to
produce iron. And why? Because you will thus deprive the navigating
interest of the freight which they earn, by carrying these articles from
Russia to this country. Can the gentleman be serious in contending that,
for the sake of affording freight to the ship-owners, we ought to depend
upon a foreign country for a supply of these articles? This argument
strikes at the root of the whole American System. Upon the same
principle we ought not to manufacture any article whatever at home,
because this will deprive our ships of the carriage of it from abroad.
This principle, had it been adopted in practice, would have left us
where we were at the close of the American Revolution. We should still
have been dependent upon foreign nations for articles of the first
necessity. This argument amounts to a proclamation of war, by our
navigation, against the agriculture and manufactures of the country. You
must not produce, because we will then lose the carriage, is the sum and
substance of the argument. Am I then to be seriously told, that for the
purpose of encouraging our ship-owners, our farmers ought to be deprived
of the markets of their own country, for those agricultural productions
which they can supply in abundance? I did not expect to have heard such
an argument upon this floor.

“By encouraging domestic industry, whether it be applied to agriculture
or manufactures, you promote the best interests of your navigation. You
furnish it with domestic exports to scatter over the world. This is the
true American System. It protects all interests; it abandons none. It
never arrays one against another. Upon the principles of the gentleman,
we ought to sacrifice all the other interests of the country to promote
our navigation. This is asking too much.

“The gentleman from Maine seems to apprehend great danger to the navy
from the passage of this bill. He appears to think it will fall with so
much oppression upon our navigation and fisheries, that these nurseries
of seamen for the navy may be greatly injured, if not altogether

“In regard to the value and importance of a navy to this country, I
cordially agree with the gentleman from Maine. Every prejudice of my
youth was enlisted in its favor, and the judgment of riper years has
strengthened and confirmed those early impressions. It is the surest
bond of our Union. The Western States have a right to demand from this
government that the mouth of the Mississippi shall be kept open, both in
war and in peace. If you should not afford them a free passage to the
ocean, you cannot expect to retain them in the Union; they are,
therefore, as much, if not more, interested in cherishing the navy than
any other portion of the Republic. The feeling in its favor contains in
it nothing sectional—it is general. We are all interested in its
preservation and extension. Unlike standing armies, a navy never did,
nor ever will, destroy the liberties of any country. It is our most
efficient and least dangerous arm of defence.

“To what, then, does the argument of the gentleman lead? Although iron,
and hemp, and flax, and their manufactures, are essential to the very
existence of a navy, yet he would make us dependent for them upon the
will of the Emperor of Russia, or the King of Sweden. A statesman would
as soon think of being dependent on a foreign nation for gunpowder, or
cannon, or cannon-balls, or muskets, as he would for the supply of iron,
or flax, or hemp, for our navy. Even if these articles could not be
produced as cheaply in this as in other countries, upon great national
principles, then domestic production ought to be encouraged, even if it
did tax the community. They are absolutely necessary for our defence.
Without them, what would become of you, if engaged in war with a great
naval power? You would then be as helpless as if you were deprived of
gunpowder or of cannon. Without them, your navy would be perfectly
useless. Shall we, then, in a country calculated by nature above all
others for their production, refuse to lend them a helping hand? I trust

“The gentleman from Maine has said much about our fisheries, and the
injurious effects which the present bill will have upon them. From this
argument, I was induced again to read the bill, supposing that it might
possibly contain some latent provision, hostile to the fisheries, which
I had not been able to detect. Indeed, one might have supposed, judging
merely from the remarks of the gentleman, without a reference to the
bill, that it aimed a deadly blow against this valuable branch of our
national industry. I could find nothing in it, which even touched the
fisheries. They have ever been special favorites of our legislation. I
shall not pretend to enumerate, because the task might seem invidious,
the different acts of Congress affording them protection. They are
numerous. The gentleman has, in my opinion, been very unfortunate in his
complaints that they have not been sufficiently protected. From the
origin of this government, they have been cherished, in every possible
manner, by our legislation. For their benefit we have adopted a system
of prohibitions, of drawbacks, and of bounties, unknown to our laws in
relation to any other subject. They have grown into national importance,
and have become a great interest of the country. They should continue to
be cherished, because they are the best nurseries of our seamen. I would
not withdraw from them an atom of the protection which they have
received; on the contrary, I should cheerfully vote them new bounties,
if new bounties were necessary to sustain them. They are the very last
interest in the country which ought to complain.

“The gentleman, whilst he strenuously opposed any additional protection
to domestic iron, and domestic hemp, surely could not have remembered,
that the productions of the fisheries enjoy a monopoly of the home
market. The duties in their favor are so high as to exclude foreign
competition. We do not ask such prohibitory duties upon foreign iron,
flax, or hemp. We demand but a moderate increase; and yet the fisheries,
which are protected by prohibitory duties, meet us and deny to us this
reasonable request.”

That Mr. Buchanan’s opposition to the administration of Mr. John Quincy
Adams was not carried on in the spirit of a partisan is evinced by his
action on an appropriation asked for to enable the Executive to continue
and complete a system of surveys, preparatory to a general plan of
internal improvements. There was much opposition to this appropriation,
especially on the part of those who denied the power of the General
Government to make such public works as were then classed as “internal
improvements.” Mr. Buchanan met their objections as follows:

Mr. Buchanan expressed his dissent from the opinions avowed by the two
gentlemen who had preceded him. The true question ought to be distinctly
stated. The act of 1824 sanctioned the policy, not of immediately
entering upon a plan of internal improvement, but of preparing for it,
by obtaining surveys, plans, and estimates in relation to the various
roads and canals that were required throughout the country. The sum of
$30,000 had been appropriated, not for a single year, but for a specific
purpose, which purpose had not yet been accomplished. Many surveys were
now in progress, which were not more than half completed, and the
question was whether the House would withdraw the means of completing
them. A discussion of the general policy of the plan was out of place on
an appropriation bill. Whatever might be decided as to carrying such a
system of internal improvement into effect, these surveys were of great
advantage to the American people. Should that system never be adopted,
this mass of information could not fail to be useful. The constitutional
question of power did not fairly arise on a proposal to employ the
engineers already at the disposal of the War Department, in a particular

Should the time ever arrive when we have more in the Treasury than we
know what to do with, the argument of the gentleman from Virginia [Mr.
Barbour] might have some force. But the question now was, whether the
House would arrest these surveys? Mr. B., for one, would not do it. He
would give the administration the sum now asked, and would hold them
responsible for its application.

There is no more interesting part of Mr. Buchanan’s early Congressional
career than his course on the subject of the Cumberland Road. We have
seen that when he first had occasion to act on this subject as a member
of Congress, he was inclined to accept the doctrine that Congress had
power to establish this road, and to levy tolls for its support. But he
had not then closely examined this subject. Mr. Monroe’s message vetoing
the Cumberland Road bill of 1822 produced in Mr. Buchanan’s mind a
decided change. At a subsequent session, he endeavored, but without
success, to have the road retroceded to the States through which it
passed, on condition that they would support it by levying tolls.[24] In
1828–29 he renewed this effort, and on the 29th of January, 1829, he
made an elaborate speech upon the whole subject, which is of sufficient
interest and importance to warrant its reproduction entire. As a
constitutional argument it is valuable; and for its independent attitude
towards the people of his own State, it is exceedingly creditable to him
as a public man.

Mr. Buchanan said that the bill and the amendment now before the
committee presented a subject for discussion of the deepest interest to
the American people. It is not a question (said Mr. B.) whether we shall
keep the road in repair by appropriations; nor whether we shall expend
other millions in constructing other Cumberland roads—these would be
comparatively unimportant; but it is a question upon the determination
of which, in my humble judgment, depend the continued existence of the
Federal Constitution in anything like its native purity. Let it once be
established that the Federal Government can enter the dominion of the
States; interfere with their domestic concerns; erect toll-gates over
all the military, commercial, and post-roads within their territories,
and define and punish, by laws of Congress, in the courts of the United
States, offences committed upon these roads,—and the barriers which were
erected by our ancestors with so much care, between Federal and State
power, are entirely prostrated. This single act would, in itself, be a
longer stride towards consolidation than the Federal Government have
ever made; and it would be a precedent for establishing a construction
for the Federal Constitution so vague and so indefinite, that it might
be made to mean anything or nothing.

It is not my purpose, upon the present occasion, again to agitate the
questions which have so often been discussed in this House, as to the
powers of Congress in regard to internal improvements. For my own part,
I cheerfully accord to the Federal Government the power of subscribing
stock, in companies incorporated by the State, for the purpose of making
roads and canals; and I entertain no doubt whatever but that we can,
under the Constitution, appropriate the money of our constituents
directly to the construction of internal improvements, with the consent
of the States through which they may pass. These powers I shall ever be
willing to exercise, upon all proper occasions. But I shall never be
driven to support any road, or any canal, which my judgment disapproves,
by a fear of the senseless clamor which is always attempted to be raised
against members upon this floor, as enemies to internal improvement, who
dare to vote against any measure which the Committee on Roads and Canals
think proper to bring before this House. It was my intention to discuss
the power of Congress to pass the bill, and its policy, separately. Upon
reflection I find these subjects are so intimately blended, they cannot
be separated. I shall therefore consider them together.

“Before, however, I enter upon the subject, it will be necessary to
present a short historical sketch of the Cumberland Road. It owes its
origin to a compact between the State of Ohio and the United States. In
1802, Congress proposed to the convention which formed the constitution
of Ohio, that they would grant to that State one section of land to each
township, for the use of schools; that they would also grant to it
several tracts of land on which there were salt springs; and that five
per cent. of the net proceeds of the future sale of public lands within
its territory should be applied to the purpose of making public roads,
‘leading from the navigable waters emptying into the Atlantic to the
Ohio, to the said State, and through the same.’ The act, however,
distinctly declares that such roads shall be laid out under the
authority of Congress, ‘with the consent of the several States through
which the road shall pass.’ These terms were offered by Congress, to the
State of Ohio, provided she would exempt, by an irrevocable ordinance,
all the land which should be sold by the United States within her
territory, from every species of taxation, for the space of five years,
after the day of sale. This proposition of Congress was accepted by the
State of Ohio, and it thus became a compact, the terms of which could
not be changed without the consent of both the contracting parties. By
the terms of the compact, this five per cent. of the net proceeds of the
sales of the public land was applicable to two objects; the first, the
construction of roads leading from the Atlantic to the State of Ohio;
and the second, the construction of roads within that State. In 1803,
Congress, at the request of Ohio, apportioned this fund between these
two objects. Three of the five per cent. was appropriated to the
construction of roads within the State, leaving only two per cent.
applicable to roads leading from the navigable waters of the Atlantic to

“In March, 1806, Congress determined to apply this two per cent. fund to
the object for which it was destined, and passed ‘an act to regulate the
laying out and making of a road from Cumberland, in the State of
Maryland, to the State of Ohio.’ Under the provisions of this act,
before the President could proceed to cut a single tree upon the route
of the road, it was made necessary to obtain the consent of the States
through which it passed. The Federal Government asked Maryland,
Pennsylvania and Virginia for permission to make it, and each of them
granted this privilege in the same manner that they would have done to a
private individual, or to a corporation created by their own laws.
Congress, at that day, asserted no other right than a mere power to
appropriate the money of their constituents to the construction of this
road, after the consent of these States should be obtained. The idea of
a sovereign power in this government to make the road, and to exercise
jurisdiction over it, for the purpose of keeping it in repair, does not,
then, appear to have ever entered the imagination of the warmest
advocate for Federal power. The federalism of that day would have shrunk
with horror from such a spectre. There is a circumstance worthy of
remark in the act of the Legislature of Pennsylvania, which was passed
in April, 1807, authorizing the President of the United States to open
this road. It grants this power upon condition that the road should pass
through Uniontown and Washington, if practicable. The grant was accepted
upon this condition, and the road was constructed. Its length is one
hundred and thirty miles, and its construction and repairs have cost the
United States one million seven hundred and sixty-six thousand one
hundred and sixty-six dollars and thirty-eight cents; whilst the two per
cent. fund which we had bound ourselves to apply to this purpose,
amounted, on the 30th of June, 1822, the date of the last official
statement within my knowledge, only to the sum of one hundred and
eighty-seven thousand seven hundred and eighty-six dollars and
thirty-one cents, less than one-ninth of the cost of the road. This road
has cost the United States more than thirteen thousand five hundred
dollars per mile. This extravagant expenditure shows conclusively that
it is much more politic for us to enlist individual interest in the
cause of Internal Improvement, by subscribing stock, than to become
ourselves sole proprietors. Any government, unless under extraordinary
circumstances, will pay one-third more for constructing a road or canal,
than would be expended by individuals in accomplishing the same object.

“I shall now proceed to the argument. Upon a review of this brief
history, what is the conclusion at which we must arrive? That this road
was made by the United States, as a mere proprietor, to carry into
effect a contract with the State of Ohio, and not as a sovereign. In its
construction, the Federal Government proceeded as any corporation or
private individual would have done. We asked the States for permission
to make the road through the territories over which their sovereign
authority extended. After that permission had been obtained, we
appropriated the money and constructed the road. The State of
Pennsylvania even annexed a condition to her grant, with which the
United States complied. She also conferred upon the agents of the United
States the power of taking materials for the construction and repair of
this road, without the consent of the owner, making a just compensation
therefor. This compensation was to be ascertained under the laws of the
State, and not under those of the United States. The mode of proceeding
to assess damages in such cases against the United States was precisely
the same as it is against corporations, created by her own laws, for the
purpose of constructing roads.

“What, then, does this precedent establish? Simply, that the United
States may appropriate money for the construction of a road through the
territories of a State, with its consent; and I do not entertain the
least doubt but that we possess this power. What does the present bill
propose? To change the character which the United States has hitherto
sustained, in relation to this road, from that of a simple proprietor to
a sovereign. To declare to the nation, that, although they had to ask
the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, for permission to
make the road, now, after it is completed, they will exercise
jurisdiction over it, and collect tolls upon it, under the authority of
their own laws, for the purpose of keeping it in repair. We will not ask
the States to erect toll-gates for us. We are determined to exercise
that power ourselves. The Federal Government first introduced itself
into the States as a friend, by permission; it now wishes to hold
possession as a sovereign, by power. This road was made in the manner
that one independent sovereign would construct a road through the
territories of another. Had Virginia been a party to the compact with
Ohio, instead of the United States, she would have asked the permission
of Maryland and Pennsylvania to construct the Cumberland Road through
their territories, and it would have been granted. But what would have
been our astonishment, after this permission, had Virginia attempted to
assume jurisdiction over the road in Pennsylvania, to erect toll-gates
upon it under the authority of her own laws, and to punish offenders
against these laws in her own courts. Yet the two cases are nearly

The right to demand toll, and to stop and punish passengers for refusing
to pay it, is emphatically a sovereign right, and has ever been so
considered amongst civilized nations. The power to erect toll-gates
necessarily implies, 1st, The stoppage of the passenger until he shall
pay the toll; 2d, His trial and punishment, if he should, either by
force or by fraud, evade, or attempt to evade, its payment; 3d, A
discretionary power as to the amount of toll; 4th, The trial and
punishment of persons who may wilfully injure the road, or violate the
police established upon it. These powers are necessarily implied.
Without the exercise of them, you could not proceed with safety to
collect the toll for a single day. Other powers will soon be exercised.
If you compel passengers to pay toll, the power of protecting them
whilst travelling along your road is almost a necessary incident. The
sovereign, who receives the toll, ought naturally to possess the power
of protecting him who pays it. To vest the power of demanding toll in
one sovereign, and the protection of the traveller’s person in another,
would be almost an absurdity. The Federal Government would probably, ere
long, exercise the power of trying and punishing murders and robberies,
and all other offences committed upon the road. To what jurisdiction
would the trial and punishment of these offences necessarily belong? To
the courts of the United States, and to them alone. In Ohio, in New
York, in Virginia, and in Maryland, it has been determined that State
courts, even if Congress should confer it, have no jurisdiction over any
penal action, or criminal offence, against the laws of the United
States. Even if these decisions were incorrect, still it has never been
seriously contended that State courts were bound to take jurisdiction in
such cases. It must be admitted, by all, that Congress have not the
power to compel an execution of their criminal or penal laws by the
courts of the States. This is sufficient for my argument. Even if the
power existed, in State courts, they never ought, unless upon
extraordinary occasions, to try and to punish offences committed against
the United States. The peace and the harmony of the people of this
country require that the powers of the two governments should never be
blended. The dividing line between their separate jurisdictions should
be clearly marked; otherwise dangerous collisions between them must be
the inevitable consequence. In two of the States through which this road
passes, it has already been determined that their courts cannot take
jurisdiction over offences committed against the laws of Congress. What,
then, is the inevitable consequence? All the penal enactments of this
bill, or of the future bills which it will become necessary to pass to
supply its defects, must be carried into execution by the Federal
courts. Any citizen of the United States, charged with the most trifling
offence against the police of this road, must be dragged for trial to
the Federal court of that State within whose jurisdiction it is alleged
to have been committed. If committed in Maryland, the trial must take
place in Baltimore; if in Pennsylvania, at Clarksburg.

The distance of one hundred or two hundred miles, which he would be
compelled to travel to take his trial, and the expenses which he must
necessarily incur, would, in themselves, be a severe punishment for a
more aggravated offence. Besides, the people of the neighborhood would
be harassed in attending as witnesses at such a great distance from
their places of abode. These, and many other inconveniences, which I
shall not enumerate, would soon compel Congress to authorize the
appointment of justices of the peace, or some other inferior tribunals,
along the whole extent of the Cumberland Road.

Can any man lay his hand upon his heart and say that, in his conscience,
he believes the Federal Constitution ever intended to bestow such powers
on Congress? The great divisions of power, distinctly marked in that
instrument, are external and internal. The first are conferred upon the
General Government—the last, with but few exceptions, and those
distinctly defined, remain in possession of the States. It never—never
was intended that the vast and mighty machinery of this Government
should be introduced into the domestic, the local, the interior concerns
of the States, or that it should spend its power in collecting toll at a
turnpike gate. I have not been presenting possible cases to the
committee. I have confined myself to what must be the necessary effects
of the passage of the bill now before us. By what authority is such a
tremendous power claimed? That it is not expressly given by the
Constitution, is certain. If it exists at all, it must, therefore, be
incidental to some express power; and in the language of the
Constitution, “be necessary and proper for carrying that power into
execution.” From the very nature of incidental power, it cannot
transcend the specific power which calls it into existence. The stream
cannot flow higher than its fountain. This principle applies, with
peculiar force, to the construction of the Constitution. For the purpose
of carrying into effect any of its specific powers, it would be absurd
to contend that you might exercise another power, greater and more
dangerous than that expressly given. The means must be subordinate to
the end. Were any other construction to prevail, this Government would
no longer be one of limited powers.

The present case affords a striking and forcible illustration of this
principle. Let it be granted that you have a right, as proprietor, by
the permission of the States, to make a road through their territories,
can it ever follow, as an incident to this mere power of appropriating
the public money, that you may exercise jurisdiction over this very
road, as a sovereign? If you could, the incident is as much greater than
the principal, as sovereign is superior to individual power. It does
follow that you can keep the road in repair, by appropriations, in the
same manner that you have made it; but this is the utmost limit of your
power. What, Sir? Exclusive jurisdiction over the road, for its
preservation, and for the punishment of all offenders who travel upon
it, and that as an incident to the mere power of expending your money
upon its construction! The idea is absurd.

Under the power given to Congress “to establish post offices and post
roads,” the Federal Government possess the undoubted right of converting
any road already constructed, within any State of this Union, into a
post road.

Let it also be granted, for the sake of the argument, that they possess
the power, independently of the will of the States, to construct as many
post roads throughout the Union as they think proper, and to keep them
in repair; does it follow that they can establish toll-gates upon such
roads? Certainly not. What is the nature of the powder conferred upon
Congress? It is a mere right to carry and to protect the mails. It is
confined to a single purpose—to the transportation of the mail, and the
punishment of offences which violate that right. This is the sole object
of the power—the sole purpose for which it was called into existence.
Over some post roads, the mail is carried once per day, and over others
once per week. With what justice can it be contended that this right of
passage for a single purpose—this occasional use of the roads within the
different States for post roads—vests in Congress the power of closing
up these roads against all the citizens of those States, at all times,
until they have paid such a toll as we think proper to impose. Let me
present the naked argument of gentlemen before their own eyes. Congress
have the right, under the Constitution, “to establish post offices and
post roads.” As an incident they possess the power of constructing post
roads. As another incident to this right of passage for a single purpose
they possess the power to assume jurisdiction over all post roads in the
different States, and prevent any person from passing over them, unless
upon such terms as they may prescribe. This would, indeed, be
construction construed. I would like the gentleman from Virginia (Mr.
Mercer) to furnish the committee with an answer to this argument. If I
were to grant to that gentleman a right of passage, for a particular
purpose only, over a road which belonged to me, what would be my
surprise and my indignation, were he to shut it up, by the erection of
toll-gates, and prohibited me from passing unless I paid him toll.

Should Congress act upon the precedent which the passage of this bill
would establish, it is impossible to foresee the dangers which must
follow, to the States and to the people of this country. Upon this
branch of the question, permit me to quote the language of Mr. Monroe,
in his celebrated message of May, 1822, denying the constitutional power
of Congress to erect toll-gates on the Cumberland Road. “If,” said he,
“the United States possessed the power contended for under this grant,
might they not, on adopting the roads of the individual States for the
carriage of the mail, as has been done, assume jurisdiction over them,
and preclude a right to interfere with, or alter them? Might they not
establish turnpikes, and exercise all the other acts of sovereignty
above stated, over such roads, necessary to protect them from injury,
and defray the expense of repairing them? Surely, if the right exists,
these consequences necessarily followed, as soon as the road was
established. The absurdity of such a pretension must be apparent to all
who examine it. In this way, a large portion of the territory of every
State might be taken from it; for there is scarcely a road in any State
which will not be used for the transportation of the mail. A new field
for legislation and internal government would thus be opened.” Arguments
of the same nature would apply with equal, if not greater force, to
those roads which might be used by the United States for the
transportation of military stores, or as the medium of commerce between
the different States. I shall not now enlarge upon this branch of the
subject, believing it, as I do, to be wholly unnecessary.

There is another view of this subject, which I deem to be conclusive.
The Constitution of the United States provides that “Congress shall have
power to exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over
such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of
particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of
the Government of the United States, and to exercise the like authority
over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State
in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines,
arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings.” This is the only
clause in the Constitution which authorizes the Federal Government to
acquire jurisdiction over any portion of the territory of the States;
and this power is expressly confined to such forts, magazines, arsenals,
dockyards, and other needful buildings, as the States may consider
necessary for the defence of the country. You will thus, Sir, perceive
with what jealousy our ancestors conferred jurisdiction upon this
Government—even over such places as were absolutely necessary for the
exercise of the power of war. This power,—which is the power of
self-defence—of self-preservation—the power given to this Government of
wielding the whole physical force of the country for the preservation of
its existence and its liberties—does not confer any implied jurisdiction
over the smallest portion of territory. An express authority is given to
acquire jurisdiction, for military and for naval purposes, and for them
alone, with the consent of the States. Unless that consent has been
first obtained, the vast power of war confers no incidental
jurisdiction, even over the cannon in your national fortifications. How,
then, can it be contended, with the least hope of success, that the same
Constitution, which thus expressly limits our power of acquiring
jurisdiction, to particular spots, necessary for the purpose of national
defence, should, by implication, as an incident to the power to
establish post offices and post roads, authorize us to assume
jurisdiction over a road one hundred and thirty miles in length, and
over all the other post roads in the country. If this construction be
correct, all the limitations upon Federal power, contained in the
Constitution, are idle and vain. There is no power which this Government
shall ever wish to usurp, which cannot, by ingenuity, be found lurking
in some of the express powers granted by the Constitution. In my humble
judgment, the argument in favor of the constructive power to pass the
sedition law is much more plausible than any that can be urged by the
advocates of this bill, in favor of its passage. I beg gentlemen to
reflect, before they vote in its favor.

I thank the gentleman from Ohio (Mr. Vance) for having reminded me of
the resolution passed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, at their last
session, which authorizes the Federal Government to erect toll-gates
upon this road, within that Commonwealth; to “enforce the collection of
tolls, and, generally, to do and perform any and every other act and
thing which may be deemed necessary, to ensure the permanent repair and
preservation of the said road.”

I feel the most unfeigned respect for the Legislature of my native
State. Their deliberate opinion, upon any subject, will always have a
powerful influence over my judgment. It is fairly entitled to as much
consideration as the opinion of this or any other legislative body in
the Union. This resolution, however, was adopted, as I have been
informed, without much deliberation and without debate. It owes its
passage to the anxious desire which that body feel to preserve the
Cumberland Road from ruin. The constitutional question was not brought
into discussion. Had it been fairly submitted to that Republican
Legislature, I most solemnly believe they would have been the last in
this Union to sanction the assumption, by this Government, of a
jurisdiction so ultra-Federal in its nature, and so well calculated to
destroy the rights of the States.

But this resolution can have no influence upon the present discussion.
The people of the State of Pennsylvania never conferred upon their
Legislature the power to cede jurisdiction over any portion of their
territory to the United States, or to any other sovereign. If the
Legislatures of the different States could exercise such a power, the
road to consolidation would be direct. If they can cede jurisdiction to
this Government over any portion of their territories, they can cede the
whole, and thus altogether destroy the Federal system.

Even if the States possessed the power to cede, the United States have
no power to accept such cessions. Their authority to accept cessions of
jurisdiction is confined to places “for the erection of forts,
magazines, arsenals, dockyards and other needful buildings.” Mr. Monroe,
in the message to which I have already referred, declares his opinion
“that Congress do not possess this power; that the States, individually,
cannot grant it; for, although they may assent to the appropriation of
money, within their limits, for such purposes, they can grant no power
of jurisdiction, or sovereignty, by special compacts with the United

I think it is thus rendered abundantly clear that, if Congress do not
possess the power, under the Federal Constitution, to pass this bill,
the States through which the road passes cannot confer it upon them. I
feel convinced that even the gentleman who reported this bill (Mr.
Mercer) will not contend that the resolution of the Legislature of
Pennsylvania could bestow any jurisdiction upon the Government. I am
justified in this reference, because that resolution is, in its nature,
conditional, and requires that the amount of tolls collected in
Pennsylvania shall be applied, exclusively, to the repair of the road
within that State; and the present bill contains no provision to carry
this condition into effect. The gentleman cannot, therefore, derive his
authority to pass this bill from a grant the provisions of which he has

This question has already been settled, so far as a solemn legislative
precedent can settle any question. During the session of 1821–2, a bill,
similar in its provisions to the one now before the committee, passed
both Houses of Congress. The vote, on its passage in this House, was
eighty-seven in the affirmative, and sixty-eight in the negative. Mr.
Monroe, then President of the United States, returned this bill to the
House of Representatives, with his objections. So powerful, and so
convincing, were his arguments, that, upon its reconsideration, but
sixty-eight members voted in the affirmative, whilst seventy-two voted
in the negative. Thus, Sir, you perceive, that this House have already
solemnly declared, in accordance with the deliberate opinion of the late
President of the United States, that Congress do not possess the power
to erect toll-gates upon the Cumberland Road. That distinguished
individual was the last of the race of Revolutionary Presidents, and,
from the soundness of his judgment and the elevated stations which he
has occupied, his opinion is entitled to the utmost respect. He was an
actor in many of the political scenes of that day when the Constitution
was framed, and when it went into operation, under the auspices of
Washington—“all which he saw, and part of which he was.” He is,
therefore, one of the few surviving statesmen who, from actual
knowledge, can inform the present generation what were the opinions of
the past. The solemnity and the ability with which he has resisted the
exercise of the power of Congress to pass this bill prove, conclusively,
the great importance which he attached to the subject.

During that session, I first had the honor of a seat in this House; I
voted for the passage of that bill. I had not reflected upon the
constitutional question, and I was an advocate of the policy of keeping
the road in repair by collecting tolls from those who travelled upon it.
After I read the constitutional objections of Mr. Monroe my opinion was
changed, and I have ever since been endeavoring, upon all proper
occasions, to atone for my vote, by advocating a cession of the road to
the respective States through which it passes, that they may erect
toll-gates upon it and keep it in repair.

There was a time in the history of this country—I refer to the days of
the first President of the United States—when the Government was feeble,
and when, in addition to its own powers, the weight of his personal
character was necessary fairly to put it in motion. Jealousy of Federal
power was then the order of the day. The gulf of consolidation then
yawned before the imagination of many of our wisest and best patriots,
ready to swallow up the rights of the States and the liberties of the
people. In those days, this vast machine had scarcely got into regular
motion. Its power and its patronage were then in their infancy, and
there was, perhaps, more danger that the jealousy of the States should
destroy efficiency of the Federal Government than that it should crush
their power. Times have changed. The days of its feebleness and of
childhood have passed away. It is now a giant—a Briareus—stretching
forth its hundred arms, dispensing its patronage, and increasing its
power over every portion of the Union. What patronage and what power
have the States to oppose to this increasing influence? Glance your eye
over the extent of the Union; compare State offices with those of the
United States; and whether avarice or ambition be consulted, those which
belong to the General Government are greatly to be preferred to the
offices which the States can bestow. Jealousy of Federal power—not of a
narrow and mean character, but a watchful and uncompromising jealousy—is
now the dictate of the soundest patriotism. The General Government
possesses the exclusive right to impose duties upon imports—by far the
most productive and the most popular source of revenue. United and
powerful efforts are now making to destroy the revenue which the States
derive from sales at auction. This Government is now asked to interpose
its power between the buyer and seller, and put down public sales of
merchandise within the different States—a subject heretofore believed to
be within the exclusive jurisdiction of the State sovereignties. Whilst
the Federal Government has been advancing with rapid strides, the people
of the States have seldom been awakened to a sense of their danger. In
the late political struggle, they were aroused, and they nobly
maintained their own rights. This, I trust, will always be the case
hereafter. Thank Heaven! whilst the people continue true to themselves,
the Constitution contains within itself those principles which must ever
preserve it. From its very nature—from a difference of opinion as to the
constructive powers which may be necessary and proper to carry those
which are enumerated into effect—it must ever call into existence two
parties, the one jealous of Federal, the other of State power; the one
anxious to extend Federal influence, the other wedded to State rights;
the one desirous to limit, the other to extend, the power and the
patronage of the General Government. In the intermediate space there
will be much debatable ground; but a general outline will still remain
sufficiently distinct to mark the division between the political parties
which have divided, and which will probably continue to divide, the
people of this country. Jealousy of Federal power had long been
slumbering. The voice of Virginia sounding the alarm has at length
awakened several of her sister States; and, although they believe her to
be too strict in her construction of the Constitution and her doctrines
concerning State rights, yet, they are now willing to do justice to the
steadiness and patriotism of her political character. She has kept alive
a wholesome jealousy of Federal power. If, then, there be a party in
this country friendly to the rights of the States and of the people, I
call upon them to oppose the passage of this bill. Should it become a
law, it will establish a precedent under the authority of which the
sovereign power of this Government can be brought home into the domestic
concerns of every State in the Union. We may then take under our own
jurisdiction every road over which the mail is carried; every road over
which our soldiers and warlike munitions may pass; and every road used
for the purpose of carrying on commerce between the several States. Once
establish this strained construction of the Federal Constitution, and I
would ask gentlemen to point out the limit where this splendid
government shall be compelled to stay its chariot wheels. Might it not
then drive on to consolidation, under the sanction of the Constitution?

Is there any necessity for venturing upon this dangerous and doubtful
measure? I appeal to those gentlemen who suppose the power to be clear,
what motive they can have for forcing this measure upon us, who are of a
different opinion? Can it make any difference to them whether those
toll-gates shall be erected under a law of the United States, or under
State authority? Cannot the Legislature of Pennsylvania enact this bill
into a law as well as the Congress of the United States? Nobody will
doubt their right. I trust no gentleman upon this floor will question
the fidelity of that State in complying with all her engagements. She
has ever been true to every trust. If she should accept of the cession,
as I have no doubt she would, I will pledge myself that you shall never
again hear of the road, unless it be that she has kept it in good
repair, and that under her care it has answered every purpose for which
it was intended.

I know that some popular feeling has been excited against myself in that
portion of Pennsylvania though which the road passes. I have been
represented as one of its greatest enemies. I now take occasion thus
publicly to deny this allegation. It is true that I cannot vote in favor
of the passage of this bill, and thus, in my judgment, violate the oath
which I have taken to support the Constitution of the United States. No
man can expect this from me. But it is equally true that I have
heretofore supported appropriations for the repair of this road; and
should my amendment prevail, I shall vote in favor of the appropriation
of one hundred thousand dollars for that purpose which is contained in
this bill.

At a late period in the second session of this Congress, February 6,
1829, a resolution was introduced by Mr. Smyth of Virginia, proposing to
amend the Constitution so as to make every President ineligible to the
office a second time. Whether this was aimed at General Jackson, who had
been elected President in the autumn of 1828, and was to be inaugurated
in about thirty days, or whether it had no special object, it was
generally regarded as a subject for the discussion of which the
remaining time of this Congress was entirely insufficient. Upon a motion
to postpone the resolution to the 3d of March, Mr. Buchanan said:

He should vote in favor of the postponement of this resolution until the
3d of March. He did not think that the great constitutional question
which it presented ought to be decided, without more time and more
reflection than it would be possible to bestow upon it at this late
period of the session. We had heard the able and ingenious argument of
the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Smyth) in favor of the proposition,
whilst no argument had been urged upon the other side of the question.
He said that a more important question could not be presented in a
republic, than a proposition to change the Constitution in regard to the
election of the Supreme Executive Magistrate. “It is better to bear the
ills we have, than fly to others that we know not of,” unless the
existing evils are great, and we have a moral certainty that the change
will not be productive of still greater evils. The Constitution has been
once changed since its adoption, and it is now generally admitted that
the alteration was for the worse, and not for the better. This change
grew out of the excitement of the moment. It provided against the
existence of an evil which, probably, would not again have occurred for
a long period of time; but in doing so, it has rendered it almost
certain that the election of a President shall often devolve upon the
House of Representatives. Had the Constitution remained in its original
form; had each elector continued to vote for two persons, instead of
one; it could rarely, if ever, have occurred that some one candidate
would not have received a majority of all the electoral votes. By this
change, we have thus entailed a great evil upon the country.

The example of Washington, which has been followed by Jefferson, Madison
and Monroe, has forever determined that no President shall be more than
once re-elected. This principle is now become as sacred as if it were
written in the Constitution. I would incline to leave to the people of
the United States, without incorporating it in the Constitution, to
decide whether a President should serve longer than one term. The day
may come, when dangers shall lower over us, and when we may have a
President at the helm of State who possesses the confidence of the
country, and is better able to weather the storm than any other pilot;
shall we, then, under such circumstances, deprive the people of the
United States of the power of obtaining his services for a second term?
Shall we pass a decree, as fixed as fate, to bind the American people,
and prevent them from ever re-electing such a man? I am not afraid to
trust them with this power.

There is another reason why the House should not be called upon to
decide this question hastily. It is a great evil to keep the public mind
excited, as it would be, by the election of a new President at the end
of each term of four years. Under the existing system, it is probable
that, as a general rule, a President, elected by the people, will once
be re-elected, unless he shall by his conduct have deprived himself of
public confidence. This will, in many instances, prevent the recurrence
of a political storm more than once in eight years. These are some of
the suggestions which induce me to vote for the postponement of this
resolution to a day that will render it impossible for us to act upon it
during the present session of Congress. We ought to have ample time to
consider this subject before we act.

                              CHAPTER VI.


General Jackson was elected President of the United States in the autumn
of 1828, by a majority of forty-eight electoral votes over Mr. John
Quincy Adams, and was inaugurated March 4, 1829. Mr. Calhoun became
Vice-President by a majority of forty-one electoral votes. Mr. Buchanan
had entered into the popular canvass in favor of General Jackson with
much zeal and activity. His efforts to secure for the General the
popular vote of Pennsylvania, which were begun in the summer of 1827,
were in danger of being embarrassed at that time by the General’s
misconception of the purpose of Mr. Buchanan’s interview with him, which
took place in 1824, while the election of a President was pending in the
House of Representatives. But Mr. Buchanan conducted himself in that
matter with so much discretion and forbearance that his influence with
General Jackson’s Pennsylvania friends was not seriously impaired. When
the canvass of 1828 came on, he was in a position to be regarded as one
of the most efficient political supporters of General Jackson in the
State; and indeed it was mainly through his influence that the whole of
her twenty-eight electoral votes was secured for the candidate whose
election he desired. Yet this commanding position did not lead him to
expect office of any kind in the new administration, nor does he appear
to have desired any. He was re-elected to his old seat in Congress, and
was in attendance at the opening of the first session of the 21st
Congress in December, 1829. He now became Chairman of the Judiciary
Committee of the House, and as such had very weighty duties to perform.

One of the first of these duties, and one that he discharged with signal
ability, required him to introduce and advocate a bill to amend and
extend the judicial system of the United States, by including in the
circuit court system the States of Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi,
Illinois, Alabama, and Missouri, which had hitherto had only district
courts, and by increasing the number of judges of the Supreme Court to
nine. Mr. Buchanan’s speech in explanation of this measure, delivered
January 14, 1830, was as important a one as has been made upon the
subject. The measure which he advocated was not adopted at that time;
but his speech may be resorted to at all times for its valuable
discussion of a question that has not yet lost its interest,—the
question of releasing the judges of the Supreme Court entirely from the
performance of circuit duties. Until I read this speech, I was not aware
how wisely and comprehensively Mr. Buchanan could deal with such a
question. The following passages seem to me to justify a very high
estimate of his powers, as they certainly contain much wisdom:

Having thus given a hasty sketch of the history of the Judiciary of the
United States, and of the jurisdiction of the circuit courts which this
bill proposes to extend to the six new States of the Union, I shall now
proceed to present the views of the Committee on the Judiciary in
relation to this important subject. In doing this, I feel that, before I
can expect the passage of the bill, I must satisfy the committee, first,
that such a change or modification of the present judiciary system ought
to be adopted, as will place the Western States on an equal footing with
the other States of the Union; and, second, that the present bill
contains the best provisions which, under all the circumstances, can be
devised for accomplishing this purpose.

And first, in regard to the States of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. It
may be said that the existing law has already established circuit courts
in these three States, and why then should they complain? In answer to
this question, I ask gentlemen to look at a map of the United States,
and examine the extent of this circuit. The distance which the judge is
compelled to travel, by land, for the purpose of attending the different
circuit courts, is, of itself, almost sufficient, in a few years, to
destroy any common constitution. From Columbus, in Ohio, he proceeds to
Frankfort, in Kentucky; from Frankfort to Nashville; and from Nashville,
across the Cumberland mountain, to Knoxville. When we reflect that, in
addition to his attendance of the courts in each of these States, twice
in the year, he is obliged annually to attend the Supreme Court in
Washington, we must all admit that his labors are very severe.

This circuit is not only too extensive, but there is a great press of
judicial business in each of the States of which it is composed. In
addition to the ordinary sources of litigation for the circuit courts
throughout the Union, particular causes have existed for its
extraordinary accumulation in each of these States. It will be
recollected that, under the Constitution and laws of the United States,
the circuit courts may try land causes between citizens of the same
State, provided they claim under grants from different States. In
Tennessee, grants under that State and the State of North Carolina, for
the same land, often come into conflict in the circuit court. The
interfering grants of Virginia and Kentucky are a fruitful source of
business for the circuit court of Kentucky. These causes, from their
very nature, are difficult and important, and must occupy much time and
attention. Within the Virginia military district of Ohio, there are also
many disputed land titles.

Another cause has contributed much to swell the business of the circuit
court of Kentucky. The want of confidence of the citizens of other
States in the judicial tribunals of that State, has greatly added to the
number of suits in the circuit court. Many plaintiff’s, who could, with
greater expedition, have recovered their demands in the courts of the
State, were compelled, by the impolitic acts of the State Legislature,
to resort to the courts of the United States. Whilst these laws were
enforced by the State courts, they were disregarded by those of the
Union. In making these remarks, I am confident no representative from
that patriotic State will mistake my meaning. I rejoice that the
difficulties are now at an end, and that the people of Kentucky have
discovered the ruinous policy of interposing the arm of the law to
shield a debtor from the just demands of his creditor. That gallant and
chivalrous people, who possess a finer soil and a finer climate than any
other State of the Union, will now, I trust, improve and enjoy the
bounties which nature has bestowed upon them with a lavish hand. As
their experience has been severe, I trust their reformation will be
complete. Still, however, many of the causes which originated in past
years, are yet depending in the circuit court of that State.

In 1826, when a similar bill was before this House, we had the most
authentic information that there were nine hundred and fifty causes then
pending in the circuit court of Kentucky, one hundred and sixty in the
circuit court for the western district, and about the same number in
that for the eastern district of Tennessee, and upwards of two hundred
in Ohio. Upon that occasion, a memorial was presented from the bar of
Nashville, signed by G. W. Campbell as chairman, and Felix Grundy, at
present a Senator of the United States, as secretary. These gentlemen
are both well known to this House, and to the country. That memorial
declares that “the seventh circuit, consisting of Kentucky, Ohio, and
Tennessee, is too large for the duties of it to be devolved on one man;
and it was absolutely impossible for the judge assigned to this circuit
to fulfil the letter of the law designating his duties.” Such has been
the delay of justice in the State of Tennessee, “that some of the
important causes now pending in their circuit courts are older than the
professional career of almost every man at the bar.”

The number of causes depending in the seventh circuit, I am informed,
has been somewhat reduced since 1826; but still the evil is great, and
demands a remedy. If it were possible for one man to transact the
judicial business of that circuit, I should have as much confidence that
it would be accomplished by the justice of the Supreme Court to which it
is assigned, as by any other judge in the Union. His ability and his
perseverance are well known to the nation. The labor, however, both of
body and mind, is too great for any individual.

Has not the delay of justice in this circuit almost amounted to its
denial? Are the States which compose it placed upon the same footing, in
this respect, with other States of the Union? Have they not a right to
complain? Many evils follow in the train of tardy justice. It deranges
the whole business of society. It tempts the dishonest and the needy to
set up unjust and fraudulent defences against the payment of just debts,
knowing that the day of trial is far distant. It thus ruins the honest
creditor, by depriving him of the funds which he had a right to expect
at or near the appointed time of payment; and it ultimately tends to
destroy all confidence between man and man.

A greater curse can scarcely be inflicted upon the people of any State,
than to have their land titles unsettled. What, then, must be the
condition of Tennessee, where there are many disputed land titles, when
we are informed, by undoubted authority, “that some of the important
causes now pending in their circuit courts are older than the
professional career of almost every man at the bar.” Instead of being
astonished at the complaints of the people of this circuit, I am
astonished at their forbearance. A judiciary, able and willing to compel
men to perform their contracts, and to decide their controversies, is
one of the greatest political blessings which any people can enjoy; and
it is one which the people of this country have a right to expect from
their Government. The present bill proposes to accomplish this object,
by creating a new circuit out of the States of Kentucky and Tennessee.
This circuit will afford sufficient employment for one justice of the
Supreme Court.

Without insisting further upon the propriety, nay, the necessity, of
organizing the circuit courts of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, in such
a manner as to enable them to transact the business of the people, I
shall now proceed to consider the situation of the six new States,
Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, and Missouri. Their
grievances are of a different character. They do not so much complain of
the delay of justice, as that Congress has so long refused to extend to
them the circuit court system, as it exists in all the other States. As
they successively came into the Union, they were each provided with a
district court and a district judge, possessing circuit court powers.
The acts which introduced them into our political family declare that
they shall “be admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the
original States, in all respects whatever.” I do not mean to contend
that by virtue of these acts we were bound immediately to extend to them
the circuit court system. Such has not been the practice of Congress, in
regard to other States in a similar situation. I contend, however, that
these acts do impose an obligation upon us to place them “on an equal
footing with the original States,” in regard to the judiciary, as soon
as their wants require it, and the circumstances of the country permit
it to be done. That time has, in my opinion, arrived. Louisiana has now
been nearly eighteen years a member of the Union, and is one of our most
commercial States; and yet, until this day, she has been without a
circuit court. It is more than thirteen years since Indiana was
admitted; and even our youngest sister, Missouri, will soon have been
nine years in the family. Why should not these six States be admitted to
the same judicial privileges which all the others now enjoy? Even if
there were no better reason, they have a right to demand it for the mere
sake of uniformity. I admit this is an argument dictated by State pride;
but is not that a noble feeling? Is it not a feeling which will ever
characterize freemen? Have they not a right to say to us, if the circuit
court system be good for you, it will be good for us? You have no right
to exclusive privileges. If you are sovereign States, so are we. By the
terms of our admission, we are perfectly your equals. We have long
submitted to the want of this system, from deference to your judgment;
but the day has now arrived when we demand it from you as our right. But
there are several other good reasons why the system ought to be extended
to these States. And, in the first place, the justices of the Supreme
Court are selected from the very highest order of the profession. There
is scarcely a lawyer in the United States who would not be proud of an
elevation to that bench. A man ambitious of honest fame ought not to
desire a more exalted theatre for the display of ability and usefulness.
Besides, the salary annexed to this office is sufficient to command the
best talents of the country. I ask you, sir, is it not a serious
grievance for those States to be deprived of the services of such a man
in their courts? I ask you whether it is equal justice, that whilst, in
eighteen States of the Union, no man can be deprived of his life, his
liberty, or his property, by the judgment of a circuit court, without
the concurrence of two judges, and one of them a justice of the Supreme
Court, in the remaining six the fate of the citizen is determined by the
decision of a single district judge? Who are, generally speaking, these
district judges? In asking this question, I mean to treat them with no
disrespect. They receive but small salaries, and their sphere of action
is confined to their own particular districts. There is nothing either
in the salary or in the station which would induce a distinguished
lawyer, unless under peculiar circumstances, to accept the appointment.
And yet the judgment of this individual, in six States of the Union, is
final and conclusive, in all cases of law, of equity, and of admiralty
and maritime jurisdiction, wherein the amount of the controversy does
not exceed two thousand dollars. Nay, the grievance is incomparably
greater. His opinion in all criminal cases, no matter how aggravated may
be their nature, is final and conclusive. A citizen of these States may
be deprived of his life, or of his character, which ought to be dearer
than life, by the sentence of a district judge; against which there is
no redress, and from which there can be no appeal.

There is another point of view in which the inequality and injustice of
the present system, in the new States, is very striking. In order to
produce a final decision, both the judges of a circuit court must
concur. If they be divided in opinion, the point of difference is
certified to the Supreme Court, for their decision; and this, whether
the amount in controversy be great or small. The same rule applies to
criminal cases. In such a court, no man can be deprived of life, of
liberty, or of property, by a criminal prosecution, without the clear
opinion of the two judges that his conviction is sanctioned by the laws
of the land. If the question be doubtful or important, or if it be one
of the first impression, the judges, even when they do not really
differ, often agree to divide, _pro forma_, so that the point may be
solemnly argued and decided in the Supreme Court. Thus, the citizen of
every State in which a circuit court exists, has a shield of protection
cast over him, of which he cannot be deprived, without the deliberate
opinion of two judges; whilst the district judge of the six new Western
States must alone finally decide every criminal question, and every
civil controversy in which the amount in dispute does not exceed two
thousand dollars.

In the eastern district of Louisiana, the causes of admiralty and
maritime jurisdiction decided by the district court must be numerous and
important. If a circuit court were established for that State, a party
who considered himself aggrieved might appeal to it from the district
court in every case in which the amount in controversy exceeded fifty
dollars. At present there is no appeal, unless the value of the
controversy exceeds two thousand dollars; and then it must be made
directly to the Supreme Court, a tribunal so far remote from the city of
New Orleans, as to deter suitors from availing themselves of this

I shall not further exhaust the patience of the committee on this branch
of the subject. I flatter myself that I have demonstrated the necessity
for such an alteration of the existing laws as will confer upon the
people of Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and of the six new Western
States, the same benefits from the judiciary, as those which the people
of the other States now enjoy.

The great question, then, which remains for discussion is, does the
present bill present the best plan for accomplishing this purpose,
which, under all circumstances, can be devised? It is incumbent upon me
to sustain the affirmative of this proposition. There have been but two
plans proposed to the Committee on the Judiciary, and but two can be
proposed, with the least hope of success. The one an extension of the
present system, which the bill now before the committee contemplates,
and the other a resort to the system which was adopted in the days of
the elder Adams, of detaching the justices of the Supreme Court from the
performance of circuit duties, and appointing circuit judges to take
their places. After much reflection upon this subject I do not think
that the two systems can be compared, without producing a conviction in
favor of that which has long been established. The system of detaching
the judges of the Supreme Court from the circuits has been already
tried, and it has already met the decided hostility of the people of
this country. No act passed during the stormy and turbulent
administration of the elder Adams, which excited more general
indignation among the people. The courts which it established were then,
and have been ever since, branded with the name of the “midnight
judiciary.” I am far from being one of those who believe the people to
be infallible. They are often deceived by the arts of demagogues; but
this deception endures only for a season. They are always honest, and
possess much sagacity. If, therefore, they get wrong, it is almost
certain they will speedily return to correct opinions. They have long
since done justice to other acts of that administration, which at the
time they condemned; but the feeling against the judiciary established
under it remains the same. Indeed, many now condemn that system, who
were formerly its advocates. In 1826, when a bill, similar in its
provisions to the bill now before the committee, was under discussion in
this House, a motion was made by a gentleman from Virginia [Mr. Mercer]
to recommit it to the Committee on the Judiciary, with an instruction so
to amend it, as to discharge the judges of the Supreme Court from
attendance on the circuit courts, and to provide a uniform system for
the administration of justice in the inferior courts of the United
States. Although this motion was sustained with zeal and eloquence and
ability by the mover, and by several other gentlemen, yet, when it came
to the vote, it was placed in a lean minority, and, I believe, was
negatived without a division. It is morally certain that such a bill
could not now be carried. It would, therefore, have been vain and idle
in the Committee on the Judiciary to have reported such a bill. If the
Western States should be doomed to wait for a redress of their
grievances, until public opinion shall change upon this subject, it
will, probably, be a long time before they will obtain relief.

But, Sir, there are most powerful reasons for believing that public
opinion upon this subject is correct. What would be the natural
consequences of detaching the judges of the Supreme Court from circuit
duties? It would bring them and their families from the circuits in
which they now reside; and this city would become their permanent
residence. They would naturally come here; because here, and nowhere
else, would they then have official business to transact. What would be
the probable effect of such a change of residence? The tendency of
everything within the ten miles square is towards the Executive of the
Union. He is here the centre of attraction. No matter what political
revolutions may take place, no matter who may be up or who may be down,
the proposition is equally true. Human nature is not changed under a
Republican Government. We find that citizens of a republic are
worshippers of power, as well as the subjects of a monarchy. Would you
think it wise to bring the justices of the Supreme Court from their
residence in the States, where they breathe the pure air of the country,
and assemble them here within the very vortex of Executive influence?
Instead of being independent judges, scattered over the surface of the
Union, their feelings identified with the States of which they are
citizens, is there no danger that, in the lapse of time, you would
convert them into minions of the Executive? I am far, very far, from
supposing that any man, who either is or who will be a justice of the
Supreme Court, could be actually corrupted; but if you place them in a
situation where they or their relatives would naturally become
candidates for Executive patronage, you place them, in some degree,
under the control of Executive influence. If there should now exist any
just cause for the complaints against the Supreme Court, that in their
decisions they are partial to Federal rather than to State authority
(and I do not say that there is), that which at present may be but an
imaginary fear might soon become a substantial reality. I would place
them beyond the reach of temptation. I would suffer them to remain, as
they are at present, citizens of their respective States, visiting this
city annually to discharge their high duties, as members of the Supreme
Court. This single view of the subject, if there were no other, ought,
in my judgment, to be conclusive.

Let us now suppose, for the sake of the argument, that the withdrawal of
the justices of the Supreme Court from their circuit duties, and their
residence in this city, would produce no such effects, as I apprehend,
upon the judges themselves; what would be the probable effect upon
public opinion? It has been said, and wisely said, that the first object
of every judicial tribunal ought to be to do justice; the second, to
satisfy the people that justice has been done. It is of the utmost
importance in this country that the judges of the Supreme Court should
possess the confidence of the public. This they now do in an eminent
degree. How have they acquired it? By travelling over their circuits,
and personally showing themselves to the people of the country, in the
able and honest discharge of their high duties, and by their extensive
intercourse with the members of the profession on the circuits in each
State, who, after all, are the best judges of judicial merit, and whose
opinions upon this subject have a powerful influence upon the community.
Elevated above the storms of faction and of party which have sometimes
lowered over us, like the sun, they have pursued their steady course,
unawed by threats, unseduced by flattery. They have thus acquired that
public confidence which never fails to follow the performance of great
and good actions, when brought home to the personal observation of the

Would they continue to enjoy this extensive public confidence, should
they no longer be seen by the people of the States, in the discharge of
their high and important duties, but be confined, in the exercise of
them, to the gloomy and vaulted apartment which they now occupy in this
Capitol? Would they not be considered as a distant and dangerous
tribunal? Would the people, when excited by strong feeling, patiently
submit to have the most solemn acts of their State Legislatures swept
from the statute-book, by the decision of judges whom they never saw,
and whom they had been taught to consider with jealousy and suspicion?
At present, even in those States where their decisions have been most
violently opposed, the highest respect has been felt for the judges by
whom they were pronounced, because the people have had an opportunity of
personally knowing that they were both great and good men. Look at the
illustrious individual who is now the Chief Justice of the United
States. His decisions upon constitutional questions have ever been
hostile to the opinions of a vast majority of the people of his own
State; and yet with what respect and veneration has he been viewed by
Virginia? Is there a Virginian, whose heart does not beat with honest
pride when the just fame of the Chief Justice is the subject of
conversation? They consider him, as he truly is, one of the greatest and
best men which this country has ever produced. Think ye that such would
have been the case, had he been confined to the city of Washington, and
never known to the people, except in pronouncing judgments in this
Capitol, annulling their State laws, and calculated to humble their
State pride? Whilst I continue to be a member of this House, I shall
never incur the odium of giving a vote for any change in the judiciary
system the effect of which would, in my opinion, diminish the respect in
which the Supreme Court is now held by the people of this country.

The judges whom you would appoint to perform the circuit duties, if able
and honest men, would soon take the place which the judges of the
Supreme Court now occupy in the affections of the people; and the
reversal of their judgments, when they happened to be in accordance with
strong public feeling, would naturally increase the mass of discontent
against the Supreme Court.

There are other reasons, equally powerful, against the withdrawal of the
judges from the circuits. What effect would such a measure probably
produce upon the ability of the judges themselves to perform their
duties? Would it not be very unfortunate?

No judges upon earth ever had such various and important duties to
perform, as the justices of the Supreme Court. In England, whence we
have derived our laws, they have distinct courts of equity, courts of
common law, courts of admiralty, and courts in which the civil law is
administered. In each of these courts, they have distinct judges; and
perfection in any of these branches is certain to be rewarded by the
honors of that country. The judges of our Supreme Court, both on their
circuits and in banc, are called upon to adjudicate on all these codes.
But this is not all. Our Union consists of twenty-four sovereign States,
in all of which there are different laws and peculiar customs. The
common and equity law have thus been changed and inflected into a
hundred different shapes, and adapted to the various wants and opinions
of the different members of our confederacy. The judicial act of 1789
declares “that the laws of the several States, except where the
Constitution, treaties, or statutes of the United States shall otherwise
require or provide,” shall be regarded as rules of decision in the
courts of the United States. The justices of the Supreme Court ought,
therefore, to be acquainted with the ever-varying codes of the different

There is still another branch of their jurisdiction, of a grand and
imposing character, which places them far above the celebrated
Amphictyonic council. The Constitution of the United States has made
them the arbiters between conflicting sovereigns. They decide whether
the sovereign power of the States has been exercised in conformity with
the Constitution and laws of the United States; and, if this has not
been done, they declare the laws of the State Legislatures to be void.
Their decisions thus control the exercise of sovereign power. No
tribunal ever existed, possessing the same, or even similar authority.
Now, Sir, suppose you bring these judges to Washington, and employ them
in banc but six weeks or two months in the year, is it not certain that
they will gradually become less and less fit to decide upon these
different codes, and that they will at length nearly lose all
recollection of the peculiar local laws of the different States? Every
judicial duty which each of them would then be required to perform,
would be to prepare and deliver a few opinions annually in banc.

The judgment, like every other faculty of the mind, requires exercise to
preserve its vigor. That judge who decides the most causes, is likely to
decide them the best. He who is in the daily habit of applying general
principles to the decision of cases, as they arise upon the circuits, is
at the same time qualifying himself in the best manner for the duties of
his station on the bench of the Supreme Court.

Is it probable that the long literary leisure of the judges in this
city, during ten months of the year, would be devoted to searching the
two hundred volumes of jarring decisions of State courts, or in studying
the acts of twenty-four State Legislatures? The man must have a singular
taste and a firm resolution who, in his closet, could travel over this
barren waste. And even if he should, what would be the consequence? The
truth is, such knowledge cannot be obtained; and after it has been
acquired, it cannot be preserved, except by constant practice. There are
subjects which, when the memory has once grasped, it retains forever. It
has no such attachment for acts of Assembly, acts of Congress, and
reports of adjudged cases, fixing their construction. This species of
knowledge, under the present system, will always be possessed by the
judges of the Supreme Court; because, in the performance of their
circuit duties, they are placed in a situation in which it is daily
expounded to them, and in which they are daily compelled to decide
questions arising upon it. Change this system, make them exclusively
judges of an appellate court, and you render it highly probable that
their knowledge of the general principles of the laws of their country
will become more and more faint, and that they will finally almost lose
the recollection of the peculiar local systems of the different States.
“Practice makes perfect,” is a maxim applicable to every pursuit in
life. It applies with peculiar force to that of a judge. I think I might
appeal for the truth of this position to the long experience of the
distinguished gentleman from New York, now by my side (Mr. Spencer). A
man, by study, may become a profound lawyer in theory, but nothing
except practice can make him an able judge. I call upon every member of
the profession in this House to say whether he does not feel himself to
be a better lawyer at the end of a long term, than at the beginning. It
is the circuit employment, imposed upon the judges of England and the
United States, which has rendered them what they are. In my opinion,
both the usefulness and the character of the Supreme Court depend much
upon its continuance.

I now approach what I know will be urged as the greatest objection to
the passage of this bill—that it will extend the number of the judges of
the Supreme Court to nine. If the necessities of the country required
that their number should be increased to ten, I would feel no objection
to such a measure. The time has not yet arrived, however, when, in my
opinion, such a necessity exists. Gentlemen, in considering this
subject, ought to take those extended views which belong to statesmen.
When we reflect upon the vast extent of our country, and the various
systems of law under which the people of the different States are
governed, I cannot conceive that nine or even ten judges are too great a
number to compose our appellate tribunal. That number would afford a
judicial representation upon the bench of each large portion of the
Union. Not, Sir, a representation of sectional feelings or of the party
excitements of the day, but of that peculiar species of legal knowledge
necessary to adjudicate wisely upon the laws of the different States.
For example, I ask what judge now upon the bench possesses, or can
possess, a practical knowledge of the laws of Louisiana? Their system is
so peculiar, that it is almost impossible for a man to decide correctly
upon all cases arising under it, who has never been practically
acquainted with the practice of their courts. Increase the number of
judges to nine, and you will then have them scattered throughout all the
various portions of the Union. The streams of legal knowledge peculiar
to the different States will then flow to the bench of the Supreme Court
as to a great reservoir, from whence they will be distributed throughout
the Union. There will then always be sufficient local information upon
the bench, if I may use the expression, to detect all the ingenious
fallacies of the bar, and to enable them to decide correctly upon local
questions. I admit, if the judges were confined to appellate duties
alone, nine or ten would probably be too great a number. Then there
might be danger that some of them would become mere nonentities,
contenting themselves simply with voting aye or no in the majority or
minority. There would then also be danger that the Executive might
select inefficient men for this high station, who were his personal
favorites, expecting their incapacity to be shielded from public
observation by the splendid talents of some of the other judges upon the
bench. Under the present system we have no such danger to apprehend.
Each judge must now feel his own personal responsibility. He is obliged
to preside in the courts throughout his circuit, and to bring home the
law and the justice of his country to his fellow-citizens in each of the
districts of which it is composed. Much is expected from a judge placed
in his exalted station; and he must attain to the high standard of
public opinion by which he is judged, or incur the reproach of holding
an office to which he is not entitled. No man in any station in this
country can place himself above public opinion.

Upon the subject of judicial appointments, public opinion has always
been correct. No factious demagogue, no man, merely because he has sung
hosannas to the powers that be, can arrive at the bench of the Supreme
Court. The Executive himself will always be constrained by the force of
public sentiment, whilst the present system continues, to select judges
for that court from the ablest and best men of the circuit; and such has
been the course which he has hitherto almost invariably pursued. Were he
to pursue any other, he would inevitably incur popular odium. Under the
existing system, there can be no danger in increasing the number of the
judges to nine. But take them from their circuits, destroy their feeling
of personal responsibility by removing them from the independent courts
over which they now preside, and make them merely an appellate tribunal,
and I admit there would be danger, not only of improper appointments,
but that a portion of them, in the lapse of time, might become
incompetent to discharge the duties of their station.

But, Sir, have we no examples of appellate courts consisting of a
greater number than either nine or ten judges, which have been approved
by experience? The Senate of the State of New York has always been their
court of appeals; and, notwithstanding they changed their constitution a
few years ago, so much were the people attached to this court, that it
remains unchanged. In England, the twelve judges, in fact, compose the
court of appeals. Whenever the House of Lords sits in a judicial
character, they are summoned to attend, and their opinions are decisive
of almost every question. I do not pretend to speak accurately, but I
doubt whether the House of Lords have decided two cases, in opposition
to the opinion of the judges, for the last fifty years. In England there
is also the court of exchequer chamber, consisting of the twelve judges,
and sometimes of the lord chancellor also, into which such causes may be
adjourned from the three superior courts, as the judges find to be
difficult of decision, before any judgment is given upon them in the
court in which they originated. The court of exchequer chamber is also a
court of appeals, in the strictest sense of the word, in many cases
which I shall not take time to enumerate.

I cannot avoid believing that the prejudice which exists in the minds of
some gentlemen, against increasing the number of the judges of the
Supreme Court to nine, arises from the circumstance that the appellate
courts of the different States generally consist of a fewer number. But
is there not a striking difference between the cases? It does not follow
that because four or five may be a sufficient number in a single State
where one uniform system of laws prevails, nine or ten would be too many
on the bench of the Supreme Court, which administers the laws of
twenty-four States, and decides questions arising under all the codes in
use in the civilized world. Indeed, if four or five judges be not too
many for the court of appeals in a State, it is a strong argument that
nine or ten are not too great a number for the court of appeals of the
Union. Upon the whole, I ask, would it be wise in this committee,
disregarding the voice of experience, to destroy a system which has
worked well in practice for forty years, and resort to a dangerous and
untried experiment, merely from a vague apprehension that nine judges
will destroy the usefulness and character of that court, which has been
raised by seven to its present exalted elevation.

It will, no doubt, be objected to this bill, as it has been upon a
former occasion, that the present system cannot be permanent, and that,
ere long, the judges of the Supreme Courts must, from necessity, be
withdrawn from their circuits. To this objection there is a conclusive
answer. We know that the system is now sufficient for the wants of the
country, and let posterity provide for themselves. Let us not establish
courts which are unnecessary in the present day, because we believe that
hereafter they may be required to do the business of the country.

But, if it were necessary, I believe it might be demonstrated that ten
justices of the Supreme Court will be sufficient to do all the judicial
business of the country which is required of them under the present
system, until the youngest member of this House shall be sleeping with
his fathers. Six judges have done all the business of the States east of
the Alleghany mountains, from the adoption of the Federal Constitution
up till this day; and still their duties are not laborious. If it should
be deemed proper by Congress, these fifteen Eastern States might be
arranged into five circuits instead of six, upon the occurrence of the
next vacancy in any of them, without the least inconvenience either to
the judges or to the people; and thus it would be rendered unnecessary
to increase the bench of the Supreme Court beyond nine, even after the
admission of Michigan and Arkansas into the Union. The business of the
Federal courts, except in a few States, will probably increase but
little for a long time to come. One branch of it must, before many
years, be entirely lopped away. I allude to the controversies between
citizens of the same State claiming lands under grants from different
States. This will greatly diminish their business both in Tennessee and
Kentucky. Besides, the State tribunals will generally be preferred by
aliens and by citizens of other States for the mere recovery of debts,
on account of their superior expedition.

I should here close my remarks, if it were not necessary to direct the
attention of the committee for a few minutes to the details of the bill.
And here permit me to express my regret that my friend from Kentucky
(Mr. Wickliffe) has thought proper to propose an amendment to add three,
instead of two, judges to the Supreme Court. Had a majority of the
Committee on the Judiciary believed ten judges, instead of nine, to be
necessary, I should have yielded my opinion, as I did upon a former
occasion, and given the bill my support in the House. This I should have
done to prevent division among its friends, believing it to be a mere
question of time: for ten will become necessary in a few years, unless
the number of the Eastern circuits should be reduced to five.

Another important matter which devolved upon Mr. Buchanan as Chairman
of the Judiciary Committee, related to the impeachment of Judge James
H. Peck, the United States district judge for the district of
Missouri. The facts of this singular case were briefly these: Judge
Peck had decided a land-cause against certain parties who were
represented in his court by an attorney and counsellor named Lawless.
Lawless published in a St. Louis newspaper some comments on the
Judge’s opinion, by no means intemperate in their character. The Judge
thereupon attached Lawless for a contempt, caused him to be imprisoned
twenty-four hours in the common jail, and suspended him from practice
for a period of eighteen months. Upon these facts, when brought before
the House of Representatives by Lawless’ memorial, there could be but
one action. The Judiciary Committee voted an impeachment of the Judge,
and Mr. Buchanan reported their recommendation on the 23d of March,
1830. He said that the committee deemed it most fair towards the
accused not to report at length their reasons for arriving at the
conclusion that the Judge ought to be impeached, but that they thought
it advisable to follow the precedent which had been established in the
case of the impeachment of Judge Chase. A desultory discussion
followed upon a motion to print the report and the documents, and upon
an amendment to include the address which it seems that the Judge had
been allowed to make to the committee. But before any vote was taken,
the Speaker, on the 5th of April, presented a memorial from Judge
Peck, praying the House to allow him to present a written exposition
of the facts and law of the case, and to call witnesses to
substantiate it, or else to vote the impeachment at once on “the
partial evidence” which the committee had heard. In the course of
these proceedings the House, if it had not been better guided, might
have established an unfortunate precedent. While the resolution
reported by the Judiciary Committee for the impeachment of the Judge
was pending in Committee of the Whole, Mr. Everett moved a
counter-resolution that there was not sufficient evidence of evil
intent to authorize the House to impeach Judge Peck of high
misdemeanors in office. This, in effect, would have converted the
grand inquest into a tribunal for the determination of the whole
question of guilt or innocence, upon allegations and proofs on the one
side and the other. It was opposed by Mr. Storrs, Mr. Ellsworth, Mr.
Wickliffe and others, and was negatived. The resolution reported by
Mr. Buchanan for the impeachment of the Judge was then adopted by the
Committee of the Whole, and reported to the House, after which Mr.
Buchanan demanded the yeas and nays, which resulted in a vote of 123
for the impeachment and 49 against it. An article of impeachment was
prepared by Mr. Buchanan, and was by order of the House presented to
the Senate. The managers appointed to conduct the impeachment on the
part of the House were Mr. Buchanan, Henry R. Storrs of New York,
George McDuffie of South Carolina, Ambrose Spencer of New York, and
Charles Wickliffe of Kentucky.

The Senate was organized as a court of impeachment on the 25th of May,
1830; but the trial was postponed to the second Monday of the next
session of Congress. It began on that day, December 20, 1830. It was Mr.
Buchanan’s duty to close the case on behalf of the managers, in reply to
Mr. Wirt and Mr. Meredith of Baltimore, the counsel for Judge Peck. Of
Mr. Buchanan’s speech, I have found no adequate report. It was delivered
on the 28th of January, 1831. Contemporary notices of it show that it
was an argument of marked ability. His positions as given in the Annals
of Congress were in substance the following:

He declared that the usurpation of an authority not legally possessed by
a judge, or the manifest abuse of a power really given, was a
misbehavior in the sense of the Constitution for which he should be
dismissed from office. He contended that the conduct of Judge Peck, in
the case of Mr. Lawless, was in express violation of the Constitution
and the laws of the land; that the circumstances of that case were amply
sufficient to show a criminal intention on his part in the summary
punishment of Mr. Lawless; that in order to prove the criminality of his
intention it was not necessary to demonstrate an actually malicious
intention, or a lurking revenge; that the infliction upon Mr. Lawless of
a summary and cruel punishment, for having written an article decorous
in its language, was itself sufficient to prove the badness of the
motive; that the consequences of the Judge’s actions were indicative of
his intentions; that our courts had no right to punish, as for
contempts, in a summary mode, libels, even in pending causes; and that
if he succeeded, as he believed he should, in establishing these
positions, he should consider that he had a right to demand the judgment
of the court against the respondent.

He took the further position that the publication of Mr. Lawless, under
the signature of “A Citizen,” could not, in a trial upon an indictment
for libel, be established to be libellous, according to the Constitution
and laws of the land; that the paper was, on its face, perfectly
harmless in itself; and that, so far as it went, it was not an unfair
representation of the opinion of Judge Peck. The honorable manager
critically and legally analyzed the nine last specifications in the
publication, to establish these points. He then proceeded to sum up and
descant upon the testimony produced in the case before the court of
impeachment, in order to show the arbitrary and cruel conduct of Judge
Peck; and in a peroration, marked by its ardent eloquence, he declared
that if this man escaped, the declaration of a distinguished politician
of this country, that the power of impeachment was but the scarecrow of
the Constitution, would be fully verified; that when this trial
commenced, he recoiled with horror from the idea of limiting, and
rendering precarious and dependent, the tenure of the judicial office,
but that the acquittal of the respondent would reconcile him to that
evil, as one less than a hopeless and remediless submission to judicial
usurpation and tyranny, at least so far as respected the inferior

God forbid that the limitation should ever be extended to the Supreme
Court. Mercy to the respondent would be cruelty to the American people.

Judge Peck was acquitted by a vote of 21 for the impeachment and 22
against it, the constitutional vote of two-thirds requisite for
conviction not being obtained. It is quite apparent that no party
feeling entered into the case.

                  [GEO. W. BUCHANAN TO JAMES BUCHANAN]

                                       PITTSBURGH, November 5, 1830.


I had the honor to receive by last night’s mail a letter from Mr. Van
Buren, enclosing me a commission from the President for the district
attorneyship. This day I will acknowledge its receipt. I am sincerely
glad both on your account and my own that the President has appointed
me. It banishes in a moment all those suspicions which some persons
entertained of his coldness towards you. It should be my highest
ambition to justify the appointment by a faithful discharge of official

My appointment appears to be received very well in this city. It will
excite some feelings of envy towards me among the young members of the
bar. My path, however, is very plain. It shall not alter my conduct or
manner in any respect.

     I am, in haste, your grateful and affectionate brother,

                                                   GEO. W. BUCHANAN.

The most signal service rendered by Mr. Buchanan in the 21st Congress,
as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, was in a minority report made by
him on the 24th of January, 1831, upon a proposition to repeal the
twenty-fifth section of the judiciary act of 1789, which gave the
Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction, by writ of error to the State
courts, in cases where the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the
United States are drawn in question. A resolution to inquire into the
expediency of repealing this great organic law having been referred to
the committee, a majority of the committee made an elaborate report in
favor of the repeal, through Mr. Smith of South Carolina, accompanied by
a bill to effect the repeal. Mr. Buchanan’s counter-report, which had
the concurrence of two other members, caused the rejection of the bill,
by a vote of 138 to 51. I know of few constitutional discussions which
evince a more thorough knowledge or more accurate views of the nature of
our mixed system of Government than this report from the pen of Mr.
Buchanan. If it be said that the argument is now familiar to us, or that
it could have been drawn from various sources, let it be observed that
this document shows that Mr. Buchanan was, at this comparatively early
period of his life, a well-instructed constitutional jurist; and that
while no one could originate at that day any novel views of this
important subject, it was no small merit to be able to set forth clearly
and cogently the whole substance of such a topic. I think no apology is
needed for the insertion here of this valuable paper. It may be prefaced
by an extract from a letter of Mr. Buchanan’s youngest brother, George
W. Buchanan, which shows how it was received by the public in

                                       PITTSBURGH, February 4, 1831.

...... I have read with the highest degree of satisfaction your able
report from the minority of the Judiciary Committee. That document will
identify your name with the most important constitutional question which
has been presented to the consideration of Congress for many years. It
was looked for with much anxiety, and is now spoken of by politicians of
every party as a lucid and powerful appeal to the patriotism of
Congress. If the question was to be started, I am sincerely glad that it
has arisen while you occupied the chair of the Judiciary Committee......

                         HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, January 24, 1831.

The Committee on the Judiciary, to which was referred a resolution of
the House of Representatives of the 21st ultimo, instructing them “to
inquire into the expediency of repealing or modifying the twenty-fifth
section of an act entitled ‘An act to establish the judicial courts of
the United States,’ passed the 24th September, 1789,” having made a
report, accompanied by a bill to repeal the same, the minority of that
committee, differing in opinion from their associates upon this
important question, deem it to be their duty to submit to the House the
following report:

The Constitution of the United States has conferred upon Congress
certain enumerated powers, and expressly authorizes that body “to make
all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying these powers
into execution.” In the construction of this instrument, it has become
an axiom, the truth of which cannot be controverted, that “the General
Government, though limited as to its objects, is supreme with respect to
those objects.”

The Constitution has also conferred upon the President, “by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the Senators
present concur,” the power to make treaties.

By the second section of the sixth article of this instrument it is
declared, in emphatic language, that “this Constitution, and the laws of
the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof, and all
treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United
States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every
State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution or laws of
any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The Constitution having conferred upon Congress the power of legislation
over certain objects, and upon the President and Senate the power of
making treaties with foreign nations, the next question which naturally
presented itself to those who framed it was, in what manner it would be
most proper that the Constitution itself, and the laws and treaties made
under its authority, should be carried into execution. They have decided
this question in the following strong and comprehensive language: “The
judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising
under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties
made, or which shall be made, under their authority.” [Art. 3, Sec. 2.]
This provision is the only one which could have been made in consistency
with the character of the Government established by the Constitution. It
would have been a strange anomaly had that instrument established a
judiciary whose powers did not embrace all the laws and all the treaties
made under its authority. The symmetry of the system would thus have
been destroyed; and, in many cases, Congress would have had to depend
exclusively for the execution of their own laws upon the judiciary of
the States. This principle would have been at war with the spirit which
pervades the whole Constitution. It was clearly the intention of its
framers to create a Government which should have the power of construing
and executing its own laws, without any obstruction from State
authority. Accordingly, we find that the judicial power of the United
States extends, in express terms, “to all cases,” in law and in equity,
arising under the Constitution, the laws, and the treaties of the United
States. This general language comprehends precisely what it ought to

If the judicial powers of the United States does thus extend to “all
cases” arising under the Constitution, the laws, and treaties of the
Union, how could this power be brought into action over such cases
without a law of Congress investing the Supreme Court with the original
and appellate jurisdiction embraced by the Constitution?

It was the imperious duty of Congress to make such a law, and it is
equally its duty to continue it; indeed, without it, the judicial power
of the United States is limited and restricted to such cases only as
arise in the Federal courts, and is never brought to bear upon numerous
cases, evidently within its range.

When Congress, in the year 1789, legislated upon this subject, they knew
that the State courts would often be called upon, in the trial of
causes, to give a construction to the Constitution, the treaties, and
laws of the United States. What, then, was to be done? If the decisions
of the State courts should be final, the Constitution and laws of the
Union might be construed to mean one thing in one State, and another
thing in another State.

All uniformity in their construction would thus be destroyed. Besides,
we might, if this were the case, get into serious conflicts with foreign
nations, as a treaty might receive one construction in Pennsylvania,
another in Virginia, and a third in New York. Some common and uniform
standard of construction was absolutely necessary.

To remedy these and other inconveniences, the first Congress of the
United States, composed, in a considerable proportion, of the framers of
the Constitution, passed the 25th section of the judicial act of the
24th September, 1789. It is in the following words:

“SEC. 25. _And be it further enacted_, That a final judgment or decree
in any suit, in the highest court of law or equity of a State, in which
a decision in the suit could be had, where is drawn in question the
validity of a treaty or statute of, or an authority exercised under, the
United States, and the decision is against their validity; or where is
drawn in question the validity of a statute of, or an authority
exercised under, any State, on the ground of their being repugnant to
the Constitution, treaties, or laws of the United States, and the
decision is in favor of such their validity; or where is drawn in
question the construction of any clause of the Constitution, or of a
treaty or statute of, or commission held under the United States, and
the decision is against the title, right, privilege, or exemption,
specially set up or claimed by either party under such clause of the
said Constitution, treaty, statute, or commission, may be re-examined
and reversed, or affirmed in the Supreme Court of the United States upon
a writ of error, the citation being signed by the chief justice, or
judge, or chancellor of the court rendering or passing the judgment or
decree complained of, or by a justice of the Supreme Court of the United
States in the same manner, and under the same regulations, and the writ
shall have the same effect, as if the judgment or decree complained of
had been rendered or passed in a circuit court; and the proceeding upon
the reversal shall also be the same, except that the Supreme Court,
instead of remanding the cause for a final decision, as before provided,
may, at their discretion, if the cause shall have been once remanded
before, proceed to a final decision of the same, and award execution.
But no other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal
in any such case as aforesaid, than such as appears on the face of the
record, and immediately respects the before-mentioned questions of
validity, or construction of the said Constitution, treaties, statutes,
commissions, or authorities, in dispute.”

This section embraces three classes of cases. The first, those in which
a State court should decide a law or treaty of the United States to be
void, either because it violated the Constitution of the United States,
or for any other reason. Ought there not in such cases to be an appeal
to the Supreme Court of the United States? Without such an appeal, the
General Government might be obliged to behold its own laws and its
solemn treaties annulled by the judiciary of every State in the Union,
without the power of redress.

The second class of cases is of a different character. It embraces those
causes in which the validity of State laws is contested, upon the
principle that they violate the Constitution, the laws, or the treaties
of the United States, and have, therefore, been enacted in opposition to
the authority of the “supreme law of the land.” Cases of this
description have been of frequent occurrence. It has often been drawn
into question before the State courts, whether State laws did or did not
violate the Constitution of the United States. Is it not then essential
to the preservation of the General Government, that the Supreme Court of
the United States should possess the power of reviewing the judgments of
State courts in all cases wherein they have established the validity of
a State law in opposition to the Constitution and laws of the United

The third class differs essentially from each of the two first. In the
cases embraced by it, neither the validity of acts of Congress, nor of
treaties, nor of State laws is called in question. This clause of the
25th section merely confers upon the Supreme Court the appellate
jurisdiction of construing the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the
United States, when their protection has been invoked by parties to
suits before the State courts, and has been denied by their decision.
Without the exercise of this power, in cases originating in the State
courts, the Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States would
be left to be finally construed and executed by a judicial power, over
which Congress has no control.

This section does not interfere, either directly or indirectly, with the
independence of the State courts in finally deciding all cases arising
exclusively under their own constitution and laws. It leaves them in the
enjoyment of every power which they possessed before the adoption of the
Federal Constitution. It merely declares that, as that Constitution
established a new form of Government, and consequently gave to the State
courts the power of construing, in certain cases, the Constitution, the
laws, and the treaties of the United States, the Supreme Court of the
United States should, to this limited extent, but not beyond it, possess
the power of reviewing their judgments. The section itself declares that
no other error shall be assigned or regarded as a ground of reversal, in
any such case as aforesaid, than such as appears on the face of the
record, and immediately respects the before-mentioned questions of
validity or construction of the said Constitution, treaties, statutes,
commissions, or authorities in dispute.

The minority of the committee will now proceed to advance, in a more
distinct form, a few of the reasons why, in their opinion, the 25th
section of this act ought not to be repealed.

And, in the first place, it ought to be the chief object of all
Governments to protect individual rights. In almost every case involving
a question before a State court under this section of the judiciary act,
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States are interposed
for the protection of individuals. Does a citizen invoke the protection
of an act of Congress upon a trial before a State court which decides
that act to be unconstitutional and void, and renders judgment against
him? This section secures his right of appeal from such a decision to
the Supreme Court of the United States.

When a citizen, in a suit before a State court, contends that a State
law, by which he is assailed, is a violation of the Constitution of the
United States and therefore void (if his plea should be overruled), he
may bring this question before the Supreme Court of the United States.

In like manner, when an individual claims any right before a State court
under the Constitution or laws of the United States, and the decision is
against his claim, he may appeal to the Supreme Court of the United

If this section were repealed, all these important individual rights
would be forfeited.

The history of our country abundantly proves that individual States are
liable to high excitements and strong prejudices. The judges of these
States would be more or less than men if they did not participate in the
feelings of the community by which they are surrounded. Under the
influence of these excitements, individuals, whose rights happen to
clash with the prevailing feeling of the State, would have but a slender
hope of obtaining justice before a State tribunal. There would be the
power and the influence of the State sovereignty on the one side, and an
individual who had made himself obnoxious to popular odium on the other.
In such cases, ought the liberty or the property of a citizen, so far as
he claims the same under the Constitution or laws of the United States,
to be decided before a State court, without an appeal to the Supreme
Court of the United States, on whom the construction of this very
Constitution and these laws has been conferred, in all cases, by the

The Supreme Court, considering the elevated character of its judges, and
that they reside in parts of the Union remote from each other, can never
be liable to local excitements and local prejudices. To that tribunal
our citizens can appeal with safety and with confidence (as long as the
25th section of the judicial act shall remain upon the statute book)
whenever they consider that their rights, under the Constitution and
laws of the United States, have been violated by a State court. Besides,
should this section be repealed, it would produce a denial of equal
justice to parties drawing in question the Constitution, laws, or
treaties of the United States. In civil actions, the plaintiff might
then bring his action in a Federal or State court, as he pleased, and as
he thought he should be most likely to succeed; whilst the defendant
would have no option, but must abide the consequences without the power
of removing the cause from a State into a Federal court, except in the
single case of his being sued out of the district in which he resides;
and this, although he might have a conclusive defence under the
Constitution and laws of the United States.

Another reason for preserving this section is, that without it there
would be no uniformity in the construction and administration of the
Constitution, laws, and treaties of the United States. If the courts of
twenty-four distinct, sovereign States, each possess the power, in the
last resort, of deciding upon the Constitution and laws of the United
States, their construction may be different in every State of the Union.
That act of Congress which conforms to the Constitution of the United
States, and is valid in the opinion of the supreme court of Georgia, may
be a direct violation of the provisions of that instrument, and be void
in the judgment of the supreme court of South Carolina. A State law in
Virginia might in this manner be declared constitutional, whilst the
same law, if passed by the Legislature of Pennsylvania, would be void.
Nay, what would be still more absurd, a law or treaty of the United
States with a foreign nation, admitted to be constitutionally made,
might secure rights to the citizens of one State, which would be denied
to those of another. Although the same Constitution and laws govern the
Union, yet the rights acquired under them would vary with every degree
of latitude. Surely the framers of the Constitution would have left
their work incomplete, had they established no common tribunal to decide
its own construction, and that of the laws and treaties made under its
authority. They are not liable to this charge, because they have given
express power to the Judiciary of the Union over “all cases, in law and
equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States,
and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority.”

The first Congress of the United States have, to a considerable extent,
carried this power into execution by the passage of the judicial act,
and it contains no provision more important than the 25th section.

This section ought not to be repealed, because, in the opinion of the
minority of the Committee on the Judiciary, its repeal would seriously
endanger the existence of this Union. The chief evil which existed under
the old confederation, and which gave birth to the present Constitution,
was that the General Government could not act directly upon the people,
but only by requisition upon sovereign States. The consequence was, that
the States either obeyed or disobeyed these requisitions, as they
thought proper. The present Constitution was intended to enable the
Government of the United States to act immediately upon the people of
the States, and to carry its own laws into full execution, by virtue of
its own authority. If this section were repealed, the General Government
would be deprived of the power, by means of its own judiciary, to give
effect either to the Constitution which called it into existence, or to
the laws and treaties made under its authority. It would be compelled to
submit, in many important cases, to the decisions of State courts; and
thus the very evil which the present Constitution was intended to
prevent would be entailed upon the people. The judiciary of the States
might refuse to carry into effect the laws of the United States; and
without that appeal to the Supreme Court which the 25th section
authorizes, these laws would thus be entirely annulled, and could not be
executed without a resort to force.

This position may be illustrated by a few striking examples. Suppose the
Legislature of one of the States, believing the tariff laws to be
unconstitutional, should determine that they ought not to be executed
within its limits. They accordingly pass a law, imposing the severest
penalties upon the collector and other custom-house officers of the
United States within their territory, if they should collect the duties
on the importation of foreign merchandise. The collector proceeds to
discharge the duties of his office under the laws of the United States,
and he is condemned and punished before a State court for violating this
State law. Repeal this section, and the decision of the State court
would be final and conclusive; and any State could thus nullify any act
of Congress which she deemed to be unconstitutional.

The Executive of one of the States, in a message to the Legislature, has
declared it to be his opinion, that the land belonging to the United
States within her territory is now the property of the State, by virtue
of her sovereign authority. Should the Legislature be of the same
opinion, and pass a law for the punishment of the land officers of the
United States who should sell any of the public lands within her limits,
this transfer of property might be virtually accomplished by the repeal
of the 25th section of the judicial act. Our land officers might then be
severely punished, and thus prohibited by the courts of that State from
performing their duty under the laws of the Union, without the
possibility of redress in any constitutional or legal form. In this
manner, the title of the United States to a vast domain, which has cost
the nation many millions, and which justly belongs to the people of the
several States, would be defeated or greatly impaired.

Another illustration might be introduced. Suppose the Legislature of
Pennsylvania, being of opinion that the charter of the Bank of the
United States is unconstitutional, were to declare it to be a nuisance,
and inflict penalties upon all its officers for making discounts or
receiving deposits. Should the courts of that State carry such a law
into effect, without the 25th section there would be no appeal from
their decision; and the Legislature and courts of a single State might
thus prostrate an institution established under the Constitution and
laws of the United States.

In all such cases, redress can now be peaceably obtained in the ordinary
administration of justice. A writ of error issues from the Supreme
Court, which finally decides the question whether the act of Congress
was constitutional or not; and if they determine in the affirmative, the
judgment of the State court is reversed. The laws are thus substituted
instead of arms, and the States kept within their proper orbits by the
judicial authority. But if no such appeal existed, then, upon the
occurrence of cases of this character, the General Government would be
compelled to determine whether the Union should be dissolved, or whether
there should be a recurrence to force—an awful alternative, which we
trust may never be presented. We will not attempt further to portray the
evils which might result from the abandonment of the present judicial
system. They will strike every reflecting mind.

It has of late years been contended that this section of the judicial
act was unconstitutional, and that Congress do not possess the power of
investing the Supreme Court with appellate jurisdiction in any case
which has been finally decided in the courts of the States. It has also
been contended that, even if they do possess this power, it does not
extend to cases in which a State is a party. On this branch of the
question, we would refer the House to the very able and conclusive
argument of the Supreme Court of the United States, in the cases of
Martin _vs._ Hunter’s Lessee (1st Wheaton, 304) and Cohens vs. the State
of Virginia (6 Wheaton, 264) by which the affirmative of these
propositions is clearly established. It may be proper, however, that we
should make a few observations upon this part of the question. Those who
have argued in favor of these positions, assert that the general words
of the Constitution, extending the judicial power of the Union “to all
cases, in law and equity,” arising under the Constitution and laws of
the United States, ought, by construction, to be restricted to such
cases in law and equity as may originate in the courts of the Union.
They would thus establish a limitation at war with the letter, and, in
our opinion, equally at war with the spirit of the instrument. Had such
been the intention of the framers of the Constitution, they well knew in
what language to express that intention. Had it been their purpose to
restrict the meaning of the general language which they had used in the
first clause of the section, they could have done so with much propriety
in the second. This clause, after providing “that, in all cases
affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, and those in
which a State shall be a party, the Supreme Court shall have original
jurisdiction,” proceeds to declare “that, in all the other cases before
mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as
to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations, as
the Congress shall make.” On the supposition contended for, it is wholly
unaccountable that the framers of the Constitution did not limit the
natural effect of the words used in the first clause, by making the
second to read “that, in all the other cases before mentioned,” arising
in the inferior courts of the United States, “the Supreme Court shall
have appellate jurisdiction.” But no such restriction exists; and, from
the fair import of the words used in both clauses, the Supreme Court
possess the power of finally deciding “all cases, in law and equity,”
arising under the Constitution, the laws, and the treaties of the United
States, no matter whether they may have originated in a Federal or in a
State court, and no matter whether States or individuals be the parties.

But it is not our intention to enter into a protracted constitutional
argument upon the present occasion, because this question has long since
been put at rest, if any constitutional question can ever be considered
as settled in this country. The Federalist, which is now considered a
text-book in regard to the construction of the Constitution, and
deservedly so, as well from the great merit of the work as the high
character of its authors, is clear and explicit on this subject. After
reasoning upon it at some length, the author of the 83d number of that
production arrives at the following conclusion: “To confine, therefore,
the general expressions which gave appellate jurisdiction to the Supreme
Court to appeals from the subordinate Federal courts, instead of
allowing their extension to the State courts, would be to abridge the
latitude of the terms, in subversion of the intent, contrary to every
sound rule of interpretation.”

The Federalist, it will be recollected, was written between the
formation of the Constitution and its adoption by the States.
Immediately after its adoption, Congress, by passing the 25th section of
the judicial act, now sought to be repealed, fully confirmed this
construction. This appellate jurisdiction has ever since been exercised
by the Supreme Court in a great variety of cases; and we are not aware
that the constitutionality of its exercise has ever been questioned by
the decision of any State court, except in a single instance, which did
not occur until the year 1815. And even in that case (Hunter _vs._
Fairfax), the judgment of the Supreme Court was carried into effect
according to the existing law, without endangering the peace of the

The last topic to which we would advert is, the claim which has been set
up to exempt the judgments obtained by the States of this Union, before
their own courts, in civil and criminal suits, prosecuted in their name,
from being reviewed by the Supreme Court of the United States upon a
writ of error. Much stress has been laid by those who sustain this
claim, upon the general proposition that a sovereign independent State
cannot be sued, except by its own consent. But does this proposition
apply, in its extent, to the States of this Union. That is the question
for discussion.

We have in this country an authority much higher than that of sovereign
States. It is the authority of the sovereign people of each State. In
their State conventions they ratified the Constitution of the United
States; and so far as that Constitution has deprived the States of any
of the attributes of sovereignty, they are bound by it, because such was
the will of the people. The Constitution, thus called into existence by
the will of the people of the several States, has declared itself, and
the laws and treaties which should emanate from its authority, to be
“the supreme law of the land;” and the judges in every State shall be
bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the
contrary notwithstanding.

Why, then, should a State, who has obtained a judgment in her own courts
against an individual, in violation of this “supreme law of the land,”
be protected from having her judgment reversed by the Supreme Court of
the United States? Is there any reason, either in the Constitution or in
natural justice, why judgments obtained by a State in her own courts
should be held sacred, notwithstanding they violated the Constitution
and laws of the Union, which would not apply, at least with equal force,
in favor of individual plaintiffs? The Constitution subjects to the
review of the Supreme Court all cases in law or equity arising under
itself, or the laws of the Union. It excepts no case bearing this
character. Whether the party be a State or an individual, all must alike
bow to the sovereign will of the people, expressed in the Constitution
of the United States.

In suits brought by a State against an individual in her own courts,
there is much greater danger of oppression, considering the relative
power and influence of the parties, than there would be in controversies
between individuals. And are these to be the only cases selected, in
which the citizen shall not be permitted to protect himself by the
Constitution and laws of the Union before the Supreme Court of the
United States? Is it not sufficient that, under the Constitution, the
States cannot be sued as defendants, without adding to this, by a
strained and unnatural construction, the additional privilege that the
judgments which they may obtain as plaintiffs or prosecutors before
their own courts, whether right or wrong, shall in all cases be

We will not repeat the considerations which have been already urged to
prove that, unless this provision of the Constitution applies to the
States, the rights of individuals will be sacrificed, all uniformity of
decision abandoned, and each one of the States will have it in her power
to set the Constitution and laws of the United States at defiance.

The eleventh amendment to the Constitution of the United States
interferes in no respect with the principles for which we have
contended. It is in these words:

“The judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to
extend to any suit, in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against
one of the United States by citizens of another State, or by citizens or
subjects of any foreign State.”

Chief Justice Marshall, in delivering the opinion of the court in the
case of Cohens vs. Virginia, has given so clear, and in our opinion, so
correct an exposition of the true construction of the amendment, that we
shall, in conclusion, present to the House a few extracts from that
opinion, instead of any argument of our own. He says that “the first
impression made on the mind by this amendment is, that it was intended
for those cases, and for those only, in which some demand against a
State is made by an individual in the courts of the Union. If we
consider the causes to which it is to be traced, we are conducted to the
same conclusion. A general interest might well be felt, in leaving to a
State the full power of consulting its convenience in the adjustment of
its debts, or of other claims upon it; but no interest could be felt in
so changing the relation between the whole and its parts, as to strip
the Government of the means of protecting, by the instrumentality of its
courts, the Constitution and laws from active violation. The words of
the amendment appear to the court to justify and require this

“To commence a suit, is to demand something by the institution of
process in a court of justice; and to prosecute the suit is, according
to the common acceptation of language, to continue that demand. By a
suit commenced by an individual against a State, we should understand a
process sued out by that individual against the State, for the purpose
of establishing some claim against it by the judgment of a court; and
the prosecution of that suit is its continuance. Whatever may be the
stages of its progress, the actor is still the same. Suits had been
commenced in the Supreme Court against some of the States before the
amendment was introduced into Congress, and others might be commenced
before it should be adopted by the State Legislatures, and might be
depending at the time of its adoption. The object of the amendment was
not only to prevent the commencement of future suits, but to arrest the
prosecution of those which might be commenced when this article should
form a part of the Constitution. It therefore embraces both objects; and
its meaning is, that the judicial power shall not be construed to extend
to any suit which may be commenced, or which, if already commenced, may
be prosecuted against a State, by the citizens of another State. If a
suit, brought in one court, and carried by legal process to a
supervising court, be a continuation of the same suit, then this suit is
not commenced nor prosecuted against a State. It is clearly, in its
commencement, the suit of a State against an individual, which suit is
transferred to this court, not for the purpose of asserting any claim
against the State, but for the purpose of asserting a constitutional
defence against a claim made by a State.

“Under the judiciary act, the effect of a writ of error is simply to
bring the record into court, and submit the judgment of the inferior
tribunal to re-examination. It does not, in any manner, act upon the
parties; it acts only on the record. It removes the record into the
supervising tribunal. Where, then, a State obtains a judgment against an
individual, and the court rendering such judgment overrules a defence
set up under the Constitution or laws of the United States, the transfer
of this record into the Supreme Court for the sole purpose of inquiring
whether the judgment violates the Constitution or laws of the United
States can, with no propriety, we think, be denominated a suit commenced
or prosecuted against the State, whose judgment is so far re-examined.
Nothing is demanded from the State. No claim against it, of any
description, is asserted or prosecuted. The party is not to be restored
to the possession of anything. Essentially, it is an appeal on a single
point; and the defendant who appeals from a judgment rendered against
him, is never said to commence or prosecute a suit against the
plaintiff, who has obtained the judgment. The writ of error is given
rather than an appeal, because it is the more usual mode of removing
suits at common law; and because, perhaps, it is more technically
proper, where a single point of law, and not the whole case, is to be
re-examined. But an appeal might be given, and might be so regulated as
to effect every purpose of a writ of error. The mode of removal is form,
not substance. Whether it be by writ of error or appeal, no claim is
asserted, no demand is made by the original defendant; he only asserts
the constitutional right to have his defence examined by that tribunal
whose province it is to construe the Constitution and laws of the Union.

“The only part of the proceeding which is in any manner personal is the
citation. And what is the citation? It is simply notice to the opposite
party that the record is transferred into another court, where he may
appear, or decline to appear, as his judgment or inclination may
determine. As the party who has obtained a judgment is out of court, and
may, therefore, not know that his cause is removed, common justice
requires that notice of the fact should be given him: but this notice is
not a suit, nor has it the effect of process. If the party does not
choose to appear, he cannot be brought into court, nor is his failure to
appear considered as a default. Judgment cannot be given against him for
his non-appearance; but the judgment is to be re-examined, and reversed
or affirmed, in like manner as if the party had appeared and argued his

“The point of view in which this writ of error, with its citation, has
been considered uniformly in the courts of the Union, has been well
illustrated by a reference to the course of this court in suits
instituted by the United States. The universally received opinion is,
that no suit can be commenced or prosecuted against the United States;
that the judiciary act does not authorize such suits; yet writs of
error, accompanied with citations, have uniformly issued for the removal
of judgments in favor of the United States into a superior court, where
they have, like those in favor of an individual, been re-examined, and
affirmed or reversed. It has never been suggested that such writ of
error was a suit against the United States, and therefore not within the
jurisdiction of the appellate court.

“It is, then, the opinion of the court that the defendant who removes a
judgment rendered against him by a State court into this court, for the
purpose of re-examining the question whether that judgment be in
violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, does not
commence or prosecute a suit against the State, whatever may be its
opinion, where the effect of the writ may be to restore the party to the
possession of a thing which he demands.”

All which is respectfully submitted.

                                                  JAMES BUCHANAN, WM. W.
                                                  ELLSWORTH, E. D.

It was Mr. Buchanan’s intention to retire from public life at the close
of this session of Congress in March, 1831. But in the early part of
February, without his previous knowledge, a movement was set on foot in
Pennsylvania to bring him forward as the candidate of that State for the
Vice-Presidency at the next election, on the ticket with General
Jackson, whose re-election to the Presidency was already anticipated by
his party. As soon as information of this purpose reached Mr. Buchanan,
he did what he could to discourage it, as will appear from the following
letter to one of his Pennsylvania friends and neighbors:


                                      WASHINGTON, February 18, 1831.


I received your kind letter of the 7th instant and the Chester County
_Democrat_ of the 8th by the same mail; and I confess the information
which they contained was wholly unexpected. I can say nothing upon the
subject to which they refer, unless it be to express a profound and
grateful sense of the kindness and partiality of those of my friends in
Chester County who would elevate me to a station to which I have never
aspired. I cannot flatter myself, for a single moment, that the people
of the State will respond to a nomination which I feel has been dictated
in a great degree by personal friendship; and I shall retire to private
life, after the close of the present session, without casting one
lingering look behind. As a private citizen I shall always remember with
the deepest sensibility the many favors which I have received from the
people of the district whom I have so long represented, perfectly
convinced that they have already bestowed upon me quite as many honors
as I have ever deserved.

I sent you by yesterday’s mail a copy of the correspondence between the
President and Vice-President. Its publication has not produced the
sensation here which was expected. I think it will not injure General
Jackson in the estimation of his friends in Pennsylvania. Its effect,
however, will be still more to divide the personal friends of Mr.
Crawford and Mr. Calhoun.

The speech which I made upon Peck’s trial will probably not appear until
a full report of the case shall be published. The commendations which
have been bestowed upon it, both here and elsewhere, have been of a
character so far beyond its merits that I fear the public will be
disappointed upon the appearance in print.

I would suggest to you the propriety of considering this letter
confidential so far as it regards myself. The subject is of a nature so
delicate, and anything I can say upon it is so liable to
misconstruction, that I should not have answered your letter, had I not
felt that you have always deserved my friendship, and that I might rely
with confidence on your discretion.

                                      From your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

P. S.—What is now the state of anti-masonry in your county?

The truth is that a longer continuance in public life did not accord
with Mr. Buchanan’s plans. His professional income had fallen to the low
rate of about $2000 per annum, and he determined to restore it to what
it had previously been, and to take his chances for raising it still

He had many qualifications for great success at the bar: competent
learning, untiring industry, a ready and pleasing address, an uncommon
reasoning power, and a reputation of perfect integrity. Had he been
impelled by the wants of a family to devote himself exclusively to his
profession, there can be no doubt that he would have risen in it to
great eminence. His talents were not of that order which would have
enabled him to unite in his own person the very different functions of a
statesman and a lawyer; a union which has been exhibited in a very
marked manner by only one person in America, and perhaps by no one in
England. But my estimate of Mr. Buchanan’s abilities leads me to say,
that if he had not at this period of his life been again drawn into a
political career, he would have ranked among the first lawyers of his
time. He must have soon encased in the forensic discussion of
constitutional questions. He had very early imbibed a deep reverence for
the Constitution of the United States, and his turn of mind would have
adapted him to the handling of questions such as were then arising and
are likely long to arise upon its interpretation. As he grew older and
his sphere of professional employment became widened, he must have been
found at the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States, if not as
the peer of Webster and Pinkney, at least as the peer of many against
whom those great advocates had to put forth their strength. But from
such a professional career Mr. Buchanan was drawn away, not by the
prospect of the Vice-Presidency, but by the unexpected offer of the
mission to Russia, an account of which will be found in the next

                       [FROM GEORGE W. BUCHANAN.]

                                          PITTSBURGH, March 4, 1830.


I am much pleased to observe from the _U. S. Telegraph_ of the 25th
ultimo that you have taken a manly stand on the constitutional side of
the Indian question. In this pleasure there is no doubt a spice of
personal vanity, as your sentiments, so far as they can be inferred from
the debate, are in perfect accordance with my own. It is a question
which has produced an unaccountable excitement in our city. Every word
on the subject is devoured with wonderful avidity; and I can assure you
that you did not put too high an estimate on public feeling when you
moved for the printing of _ten thousand_ copies of the report. As public
opinion is yet unsettled, it is important that the report of the
committee, if temperate and decided, should have an extensive

I have read your speech on the Judiciary with great interest and
advantage. The legal gentlemen in our city have highly complimented both
its style and research. The best evidence of its effect is, that all
those with whom I have conversed on the subject are decidedly in favor
of _your bill_.

Anti-masonry is still flourishing. I do not know the state of feeling in
the eastern section of Pennsylvania, but I am now perfectly convinced
that no western county will return _a mason_ to the next Legislature.
Strong, however, as anti-masonry is, much of its apparent strength is
borrowed from extrinsic circumstances. In this city, for instance, many
persons are anxious to be rid of a set of rulers who have managed with
so much political dexterity as to control the destinies of this county
for many years. _These men happen to be masons._ No other hobby could be
mounted with the same prospect of success. The honest anti-masons, the
old Adams men, and the disappointed office-seekers are easily induced to
unite their influence against the “powers that be.” The motley materials
are thus thrown into one caldron and stirred up into a _dangerous
compound_. These remarks I have made to account for the extraordinary
strength of anti-masonry in this quarter......

I am obliged to you for the salutary counsel contained in your last
letter. I believe that a whole volume of advice (both moral and
political) is contained in that single direction, “Be wise as the
serpent, but harmless as the dove.” ...... My health is very good.

                 Your grateful and affectionate brother,

                                                   GEO. W. BUCHANAN.

It appears, however, that a meeting was held at Lancaster in March, at
which he was nominated for the Vice-Presidency, with what effect may be
learned from the following letters written by his brother George from


                                         PITTSBURGH, March 23, 1831.


I have just read with great pleasure the proceedings of the Lancaster
meeting which nominated you for the Vice-Presidency. Whether success
shall crown the exertions of your friends or not, no public man can
receive so flattering and precious a testimonial as the unanimous and
unsolicited voice of his neighbors and acquaintances. In this part of
the State, the idea seems to take very well. Both this county and
Washington will, I think, hold meetings in your favor. I saw the editor
of the _Manufacturer_ this morning and ascertained that he will be
disposed to take a prominent part. The _Democrat_ will probably not be
unfavorable. The editor, however, is a very timid creature.

On Thursday last I was so unfortunate as to fall and break my arm. The
pain has subsided in a great degree, and I think that my arm will be
restored in a short time to its wonted strength and action. I can now
attend to any business that does not require the use of both hands.

I write under a feeling of great inconvenience, and will therefore

           Your grateful and affectionate brother,

                                                   GEO. W. BUCHANAN.

                                         PITTSBURGH, April 29, 1831.


I have been absent from home in attendance upon a sale of United States
property at Uniontown for a week past. I succeeded in effecting a very
good disposition of the property. The Government, I have no doubt, will
approve my proceedings.

I find that in every county in which I have been, your nomination for
the Vice-Presidency is very popular. In Fayette and Washington there
will scarcely be a division of sentiment. Still, however, it is thought
proper to suspend all public proceedings in your favor till the time of
holding their regular Democratic meetings in the summer. That course
will also be adopted in this county. Every leading _Jackson politician_
here, with the exception of one or two Ingham men, is favorable to your
nomination. It will, however, be probably better to wait for a further
expression of public opinion at _the regular meetings of the party
throughout the State_. I observe that in the _Kentucky Gazette_ your
name is placed on the Democratic ticket, under General Jackson’s.

It is believed here that the appointment of Attorney-General has been
tendered to you. If so, I hope that you will accept it. It is a most
honorable station, and free from that abuse which attaches to the
Secretaryships. Will Van Buren be a candidate for the Vice-Presidency?

My arm is not yet so far restored as to be of any use. I trust, however,
that the weakness is only of a temporary nature. My health, in other
respects, is good.

                       I am your grateful brother,

                                                   GEO. W. BUCHANAN.

Mr. Buchanan returned to Lancaster after this meeting had been held. His
nomination to the Vice-Presidency continued to be agitated in other
parts of Pennsylvania, and in June a great meeting of the supporters of
General Jackson was held at Williamsport, of which George Buchanan gives
the following account:


                                          PITTSBURGH, June 15, 1831.


I arrived here on Thursday. The heat was so oppressive on horseback that
I sold my horse at Bellefonte, and returned in the stage. The journey
has, in a very great degree, restored my health.

The Jackson meeting at Williamsport was an exceedingly respectable one.
Fifteen counties were represented. There can be no doubt that you were
the Pennsylvanian to whom the resolution respecting the Vice-Presidency
was intended to point. I have every reason to believe that your name
would have been inserted by an almost unanimous vote, if Mr. Potter,
from Centier, had not been detained at home by the illness of his wife.
He would have offered a resolution nominating you; and I can say, _from
information of the most undoubted credit_, that at least two-thirds of
all the jurors would have warmly sustained it. Mr. Ward, editor of the
_Susquehanna Register_, and Mr. Youngman, editor of the _Union Times_,
with both of whom I became intimately acquainted, are decidedly
favorable to your nomination. They are intelligent young men, and have,
in a warm and flattering manner, solicited my correspondence.

In the Western country, I find that the Ingham faction is extremely
weak. Out of Bradford County, and apart from their family connections,
they appear to have no friends in the West. The people in our district
speak very favorably of Mr. Muhlenburg as _the next Governor_, and, I
assure you, I did nothing to discountenance that feeling. The popularity
of the present Governor has been injured by the appointment of General
McKean, the proposition to tax coal, and the character of certain county
appointments. The resolution adopted at our meeting, and opposing
General Jackson’s course in the Cabinet affair, was intended as a direct
censure upon Messrs. Ingham, &c. Owing to the relation I bore to you and
to General Jackson, I determined to take no active part in the meeting.

I should like very much to see you and hold a long conversation on
matters and things. In July I shall endeavor to visit Franklin County,
and, if you should be unable to meet me there, I will extend my journey
to Lancaster.

Governor Wolf left our city this morning for Erie. He was here at the
time of my arrival, and, in company with several ladies and gentleman, I
escorted him to Economy. He was exceedingly well received by the people
of that singular village. His plain manners and German language endeared
him very much to Raff and his whole Society. The Governor treated me
with great attention, and evinced a disposition to be very familiar. His
daughter, however, _pleased my fancy_ much more than the old gentleman
himself. She is a very interesting lady, and has well nigh _stolen my

I observe that the newspapers are determined to give you some office.
They now make you Minister to Russia. Is this report true? If so, it
will then become your duty to consider _what sort of a Secretary your
brother George would make_. It would be a very interesting time to visit

  I remain your grateful and affectionate brother,

                                                   GEO. W. BUCHANAN.


Footnote 23:

  Mr. Buchanan’s speech extended through two sessions of the Committee
  of the Whole. After some amendments by the Senate, the bill was
  finally passed, and was approved by the President May 19, 1828. The
  speech may be found in Gales & Seaton’s Register of Debates, Vol. IV,
  Part 2, page 2089, _et seq._

Footnote 24:

  Mr. Buchanan’s proposal was not adopted, and on the 2d of March, 1829,
  the President, Mr. Adams, approved “An act for the continuation of the
  Cumberland Road.” Mr. Buchanan voted against this bill, saying that he
  did so reluctantly, but that now the House had voted to keep the
  Cumberland Road in repair, by erecting toll-gates upon it under the
  authority of the Federal Government, and so long as this pretension
  continued to be set up, he would not vote for the construction of any
  road intended, after its completion, to be thus placed under the
  jurisdiction of the United States, as he believed it to be entirely

Footnote 25:

  This allusion to the Secretaryship of the Russian Mission was, of
  course, merely playful. George Buchanan had no thought of seeking this
  appointment, nor would his brother have asked for it.


                              CHAPTER VII.


After General Jackson became President in March, 1829, he determined to
offer the Mission to Russia to “John Randolph of Roanoke.” This offer
was made in September of that year, and was then accepted; but the
nomination was not submitted to the Senate until the following May. It
was confirmed without opposition from any quarter.[26] Before he sailed,
Mr. Randolph had leave granted him by the President to spend the
following winter in the south of Europe, if the state of his health
should require it. He remained at St. Petersburg only long enough to be
accredited. His constitution was too far impaired to admit of his
encountering the rigors of a Russian winter. He left the affairs of the
legation in the hands of Mr. Clay, the Secretary, and went to England.

In his annual message in December (1830), the President communicated to
Congress the fact of Mr. Randolph’s necessary absence from his post, on
leave, and said that the public interests in that quarter would still be
attended to by the Minister, through the Secretary. When the annual
appropriation bill came before the House of Representatives in January
(1831), a long and acrimonious discussion took place upon a motion to
strike out the salary of the Minister to Russia. It was contended that
the Mission was actually, if not technically, vacant; and it was charged
that the appointment of Mr. Randolph, with the understanding that he
might leave his post at his own discretion, was a “job.” To this it was
answered by the friends of the Administration that the responsibility
for his appointment lay with the President and the Senate; that in the
Senate the opposition entirely approved of the appointment; and that for
the House to refuse to pay the salary of a Minister because he was
absent from his post on leave given by the President, would be highly
improper. In the course of this debate, Mr. Buchanan made a temperate
and judicious speech, in which he defended the appointment. The result
was that the appropriation was retained in the bill and the bill was

It became necessary, however, in the spring of this year, for the
President to recall Mr. Randolph and to select his successor. In those
days, the public men of the country did not propose themselves for such
appointments. The first intimation that reached Mr. Buchanan of the
President’s wish to make him Minister to Russia, came to him in a letter
from a confidential friend of the President.

                     [MAJOR EATON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

 (Private.)                                    WASHINGTON, May 31, 1831.


Where are you, and what doing? I cannot tell, having heard nothing from
you since the adjournment of Congress. That you are doing well, though,
I have no doubt and earnestly hope.

I introduce myself to you now at the request and by the direction of the
President. The Mission to St. Petersburg is expected shortly to become
vacant. It will afford the President pleasure to confide this trust to
you, if it shall suit your convenience to accept it. He desires me to
make known his wishes to you and to solicit an answer. It is at the
present an important and a highly interesting part of the world. For
reasons not material now to be explained, the President desires that you
will consider this communication entirely of a confidential character.

                               With great respect,

                                                        J. H. EATON.

                     [MR. BUCHANAN TO MAJOR EATON.]

                                            LANCASTER, June 4, 1831.


I received your letter last evening, offering me, “by the direction of
the President,” the Mission to St. Petersburg. I feel with the deepest
sensibility this pledge of the kindness of the President, and the
recollection of it shall ever be engraven on my grateful memory. My
attachment for him, both personal and political, has been of the warmest
character, and he has now engrafted upon that feeling a strong sense of
individual gratitude.

There is but a single circumstance which induces me to doubt whether I
ought to accept the Mission. I wish to be placed in no public station in
which I cannot discharge my duty with usefulness to the country and
honor to the administration of General Jackson. Ignorant as I now am of
the French language, I doubt whether I could acquire a sufficient
knowledge of it in proper time to enable me to hold that free communion
with the political circles in St. Petersburg which I consider essential
to the able discharge of the duties of a foreign minister. I have much
business now on hand which I could not immediately leave without doing
serious injury to individuals who have confided in me. Will you be so
kind as to inform me at what time the President would think the public
interest required me to leave the country in case I should accept the

Please to remember me to the President in the strongest terms. Accept my
thanks for your uniform kindness, and present my respects to Mrs. Eaton.
I remain

                                      Sincerely your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                          [EATON TO BUCHANAN.]

 (Private.)                               WASHINGTON CITY, June 7, 1831.


I have just received your letter, and will show it to the President,
whom I shall see during the day. The difficulty you suggest can no doubt
be remedied. Mr. R. is not expected to return before July or August; it
would then be too late in the season to reach St. Petersburg by water
transportation. To depart in September would create the necessity of
travelling over land from Hamburg or Havre. This, I am confident, the
President would not ask of you. I feel satisfied that he will grant the
indulgence asked and defer your departure until next spring. But I will
see him, and if I be wrong in this, I will again write you to-morrow;—if
no letter come, you may understand by the silence that my suggestions
are approved by the President.

                                 Very truly yours,

                                                        J. H. EATON.

P. S. I will write to you to-morrow or the next day, _at any rate_.

3 _o’clock_. I sent your letter to the President. In answer he thus
writes: “Say to Mr. Buchanan that he will not be required to go out
before next winter or spring, that he may reach St. Petersburg on the
breaking up of the ice—unless something more than is now expected
arises, when the President will rely upon Mr. Buchanan’s patriotism to
proceed. He will have sufficient time to arrange his affairs.”

                          [BUCHANAN TO EATON.]

                                           LANCASTER, June 12, 1831.


After the receipt of your last kind letter of the 7th inst., with the
extract from the President’s note to you annexed, granting me all the
indulgence I could have desired, I can no longer hesitate to accept the
Russian Mission. I fear that the necessary arrangements, both of a
professional and private character, which I must soon begin to make
preparatory to leaving the country—together with the study of the French
language, which I intend to commence—may disclose the fact that this
Mission has been offered to me and accepted. Indeed, from the
publications in the newspapers it was believed by many before I had any
intimation that such an intention existed on the part of the President.
Is there any reason why I should for the present defer these

Please to present my grateful compliments to the President, and believe
me to be

                                  Sincerely your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.


                          [EATON TO BUCHANAN.]

                                          WASHINGTON, June 15, 1831.


On receiving your letter this morning I referred it to the President,
and he has returned me a hasty note, which I enclose to you. It is quite
like himself, candid and frank.

                         With great regard, yours,

                                                        J. H. EATON.

                          [EATON TO JACKSON.]


I send you a letter to-day received from Mr. Buchanan. What shall I say
to him?


                                                        J. H. EATON.

                          [JACKSON TO EATON.]


Say to him in reply, to go on and make his preparations and let the
newspapers make any comments that they may think proper, and mind them
not. It is only necessary that _he_ should not give them any information
on this subject—the journals will say what they please, and be it so.


                                                               A. J.

                       [LIVINGSTON TO BUCHANAN.]

      (Private.)                             WASHINGTON, August 2, 1831.


Mr. Taney having given me your letter of the 26th July, with a request
that I would communicate it to the President, I did so; and he has
directed me to say that it was not deemed proper to make the offer of
the Russian Mission public until Mr. Randolph’s return should make the
place vacant, and that when that event happened he would direct me to
write to you.

The former communications were made to you while I was confined to my
bed, and did not pass through my Department, or they would have been put
in a shape that would have spared you any embarrassment on the subject.

I am, my dear Sir, with the greatest regard and esteem,

                   Your friend and humble servant,

                                                EDW. LIVINGSTON.[28]

                          [TANEY TO BUCHANAN.]

   (Confidential.)                           WASHINGTON, August 2, 1831.


I received your letter and immediately waited on Mr. Livingston, and
placed it in his hands, requesting him to ascertain whether your
appointment and acceptance might not at once be made public. Mr.
Livingston informed me to-day that he had seen the President, and that
the only reason for desiring that nothing should be said about it was
that Mr. Randolph had not yet returned, and that he did not wish that
your appointment should be formally made and publicly announced until
Mr. Randolph arrived in this country. The Secretary of State will,
however, write to you himself to-day. I omitted to ask him when Mr.
Randolph was expected, but he will probably mention the time in his
letter to you. I can readily imagine that the present state of things
may be rather embarrassing to you, and hope it will not be long before
an appointment which I am quite sure will give great satisfaction to our
friends, can be officially made known.

Mr. Livingston intends to go to New York in the course of this week in
order to have a conference with Mr. McLane and Mr. Van Buren before the
latter sails for England. He will leave Washington on Thursday, unless
he should learn in the mean time that Mr. McLane is on his way to this
place. And as an interview with him on your affairs would, I presume, be
agreeable to you, perhaps you may make it convenient to meet him in New
York. Governor Cass has accepted the appointment of Secretary of War,
and was to leave home on the first of this month, and expected to be
here before the 15th.

Wishing you, my dear Sir, a pleasant excursion, and regretting that my
engagements here will prevent me from joining you at Saratoga, I am

                Most truly your friend and obedient servant,

                                                        R. B. TANEY.

There was one member of Mr. Buchanan’s family who was decidedly opposed
to his acceptance of this mission. This was his mother, then at the age
of 65. It would be interesting to know what was the special reason which
led this excellent and intelligent lady to feel as she did about this
appointment. Whether it was anything more than a presentiment that she
should never see him again after he had crossed the ocean, or whether
she thought that it would not be wise for him to venture in a new path
of public life, can only be inferred from the following letter, which
she wrote to him after his decision had been made:

                   [MRS. BUCHANAN TO HER SON JAMES.]

                                                  October 21 [1831].


With Harriet’s permission, I write you a few lines in her letter. I feel
deep solicitude respecting your mission to Russia, and perhaps I am too
late in laying [before you] my objections, which, in my estimation, are
formidable. Would it not be practicable, even now, to decline its
acceptance? Your political career has been of that description which
ought to gratify your ambition; and as to pecuniary matters, they are no
object to you. If you can, consistently with the character of a
gentleman and a man of honor, decline, how great a gratification it
would be to me. May God of His infinite goodness, dispose of us in
whatever way may promote His glory and secure our everlasting felicity,
is the prayer of your affectionate


P. S.—At what time do you intend paying us that visit, previous to your
departure from the country which gave you birth, and I expect, to me,
the last visit? Do not disappoint me, but certainly come.

There is no record of this visit, which was indeed the last, but which
was undoubtedly made. One of the strongest reasons that weighed with Mr.
Buchanan against his acceptance of this mission was his mother’s
advanced age, and the probability that he might never see her again. In
the latter part of August and the early part of September, he was absent
from Lancaster on a journey to the East, on account of his health. On
his return, he wrote a private letter to General Jackson; part of which,
however, is wanting in the copy before me:

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                      LANCASTER, September 10, 1831.


Having had the bilious fever severely for the last three autumns, I was
advised by my physicians to go to the North this summer, as the best
means of preventing its recurrence. Accordingly, I have been wandering
about among the New Yorkers and the Yankees for several weeks past. I
reached home but last night. Whilst I was at Boston, the anti-masonic
letter of Mr. Adams made its appearance. This folly, although it caps
the climax, is in perfect character with the history of his conduct. It
is a melancholy spectacle to see a man who has held the first office
acting as he has done. It is now believed seriously, even by his former
friends, that he is courting the anti-masonic nomination. He and Rush
are a _par nobile fratrum_. I was happy to find everywhere that the
little specks which appeared on the political horizon—about the time you
changed your Cabinet—have been entirely dissipated. It could not have
been otherwise. In the opinion of your friends, the present Cabinet is
just such a one as it ought to be. In this State, your strength has
alarmed those who evidently wished to abandon you, and they are now the
loudest in your support. It not being in their power to affect you, they
are pushing another purpose with all their might. They are strenuously
opposed to a national convention to nominate a Vice-President; and
through the inadvertence of our friends who are without suspicion, it
appears to be settled that a State convention, which will meet to
nominate a Governor on the 4th of March next, will also select a
candidate for the Vice-Presidency. This nomination ought to be made by a
Jackson convention on the 8th of January. The consequence will be that
the State administration—on account of its extensive patronage and the
interest felt by all the State office-holders in sending their
particular friends to the convention—will probably be able to control
the nomination. George M. Dallas is unquestionably the candidate of the
State administration, and of all those who are the friends of Mr. Ingham
and Calhoun. Now I have no wish to be a candidate for the
Vice-Presidency; on the contrary, my nomination was put up without my
consent, and it is my intention to decline, but I desire to do it——

[The residue of the original letter is lost.]

Although Mr. Buchanan had accepted the offer of the Russian Mission, his
nomination could not be submitted to the Senate until after that body
had assembled in December, 1831. It was acted upon in the Senate in the
early part of January, 1832, and from the following letter from Mr.
Livingston, the Secretary of State, it appears that the nomination was
confirmed by an unanimous or nearly unanimous vote:

                       [LIVINGSTON TO BUCHANAN.]

 (Private and unofficial.)                    WASHINGTON, Jan. 12, 1832.


I pray you to receive my congratulations on your appointment and the
unanimity with which your nomination is understood to have been
confirmed by the Senate—a favor which it is believed will not be
conferred upon all of us. Allow me also to ask at what time you can
arrange your affairs for a departure. Have you designated any one to
serve as your Secretary of Legation? You know that your wishes will be
consulted on the occasion. Should you not desire that Mr. Clay should be
retained in that situation, I could mention a gentleman who would be
highly useful to you. He speaks most of the modern languages, has
travelled in Europe and made good use of his travels; he is now employed
in my Department and I should part with him with very great regret, but
being sincerely attached to him I consider his advancement, not my
interest or convenience, in this application; for he, Dr. Greenhow,
enjoys my fullest confidence and you will, if you take him, find him
every way worthy of yours, and well calculated by his manners,
deportment and knowledge of the world to aid you in the lighter but very
necessary duties of your station, as well as to perform those of a more
important kind with which you may entrust him.

Two or three apples of discord have, as you will perceive by the papers,
been thrown in both houses—each of them sufficient to create a warfare
that will last during a session.

I am, my dear Sir, with high regard,

                       Your most obedient servant,

                                                    EDW. LIVINGSTON.

With what feelings Mr. Buchanan left his home in Lancaster and proceeded
to Washington, and thence to New York to take passage for Liverpool, may
be gathered from the following portions of his diary:

                                                   _March 21, 1832._

I left Lancaster in the stage early in the morning for Washington and
arrived in Baltimore the same evening. Although my feelings are not very
easily excited, yet my impressions on this day were solemn and sad. I
was leaving a city where I had spent the best years of my life, where I
had been uniformly a popular favorite, and, above all, where I had many
good and true friends who had never abandoned me, under the most trying
circumstances. Among these people I had acquired a competence for a man
of moderate wishes, and I think I may say without vanity my professional
and personal character stood very high. I was about to embark in a new
pursuit, and one in which my heart never was; to leave the most free and
happy country on earth for a despotism more severe than any [other]
which exists in Europe. These gloomy reflections often came athwart my
mind. They were succeeded, however, by a sense of reliance on that good
Providence which hitherto had blessed and sustained me, and by a
conviction that I was about to go upon an important mission in which I
might be made the instrument in His hands of rendering important
services to my country.

                                                _Sunday, April 8th._

I set sail from New York for Liverpool on board the “Silas Richards,”
Captain Henry Holdridge, accompanied by Lieutenant John W. Barry, of the
U. S. army, as private secretary, and Edward Landrick, a mulatto
servant. I suffered from sea-sickness during nearly the whole voyage.
Our fellow-passengers were kind and agreeable. Dr. Hosack of New York
gave Charles Archibald, Esq., the son of the Attorney-General of Nova
Scotia, a letter of introduction to me, which he delivered on
ship-board. I found him to be an amiable and intelligent young
gentleman, and enjoyed much pleasure in his society. There was a Mr.
Walter—an Englishman—from London, on board, a man of general
information, who was always ready and always willing to defend all the
institutions of his own country, whether good or bad. He would have been
a very agreeable companion, had he been willing to converse instead of
making speeches. Notwithstanding, he was warm-hearted and kind, and the
impression he made upon me was quite favorable. In addition to these
passengers, we had a Mr. Clapham from Leeds, Mr. Stuart from Pittsburg,
Mr. and Mrs. McGee and Mr. Moller of New York, Mr. McBride of Dublin,
Mr. Morris of Brockville, U. C., and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Morris,
from —— in the same province, Mr. Osmond, a preacher of the Society of
Friends, from Indiana, going to London to attend the yearly meeting,
Mrs. and Miss Taylor of New York.

The captain was an excellent seaman, a gentleman in his manners, and
possessed much more information than could have been expected from one
in his profession who had crossed the Atlantic eighty-eight times. We
saw Cape Clear, the southwestern point of Ireland on Sunday, the 22d;
but were detained by head winds for several days on that coast. Several
of us had determined to go on board a fishing boat and land at Cork, and
proceed from thence to Dublin, but were prevented by adverse winds from
approaching the shore. We arrived in Liverpool on Thursday, the 3d May,
about 12 o’clock (noon), after a passage of 25 days. When the pilot came
on board, he informed us that Liverpool was clear of cholera, but that
it was raging both in Cork and Dublin. We took lodgings at the Adelphi
Hotel. The passengers on this day gave Captain Holdridge a dinner at
“The Star and Garter,” at which I presided. Mr. Brown and Mr. Ogden, our
consul, were present as guests.

                                                  _Friday, May 4th._

Mr. Brown of Liverpool took me about in his carriage and showed me the
town of Liverpool. The appearance of the people, their manners and their
language are so similar to those of New York that I could scarcely
realize I was in England. The brick of which the houses are built when
new have a dirty yellow appearance and the coal dust soon gives them a
darker hue. This imparts a gloomy appearance to the town and deprives it
of that light and cheerful hue which we experience in Philadelphia and
New York. It is a place of great wealth and vast commerce, although the
approach to it is tedious and difficult and altogether impracticable at
low tide. The Mersey is but a small river compared with those in
America. Its docks are admirable and very extensive, covering a space
actually under water of between eighty and ninety English acres. The
cemetery is well worthy of observation. Mr. Barry and myself dined with
Mr. Brown at his country house about three miles from Liverpool. It is
beautifully situated, the grounds around it highly improved, and both
its external and internal appearance prove the wealth and the taste of
its opulent and hospitable owner.[29] Francis B. Ogden, Esq., the
American consul, and several other gentlemen were of the party. We spent
a very pleasant afternoon and evening.

Mr. Ogden has wandered much over the world. He is an agreeable and
warm-hearted fellow and something, I should suppose, of what we call “a
gimcrack” in America. He has given me a cipher of his own invention
which he says is the best in the world—and that it may be continually
changed, so that my secretary may decipher one letter and yet know
nothing about any other. During our stay at Liverpool we received many
attentions. We were particularly indebted to Mr. Crary and Mr. Carnes,
for whom I had letters of introduction from my friend John S. Crary of
New York. I could not help observing at this place what a strong
impression the successful operations of our Government had produced on
the minds of Englishmen. Our national character now stands high,
notwithstanding the efforts which have been made to traduce it.

                                                    _Saturday, 5th._

Left Liverpool on the railroad, and arrived at Manchester—a distance of
thirty miles—in one hour and twenty-five minutes. There are two tunnels,
one of about 2200 yards, under the city, to communicate with the vessels
at the docks, the other about 200 yards, passing under a hill in the

The following letter to his youngest brother, lately the Rector of
Oxford Church, Philadelphia, gives his first impressions of England:


                                               LONDON, May 12, 1832.


We left Liverpool on Saturday morning last and arrived in this city
on Tuesday. On our way, after passing over the railroad to
Manchester, we visited Birmingham, Kenilworth Castle, Warwick
Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, Blenheim and Oxford. Every portion of
the country that we have seen is in the highest state of
cultivation, and its appearance at this season of the year is
delightful. One thing, however, which must strike every American
traveller, is the mercenary spirit of all that class of people with
whom he comes in contact on the road. No person performs any office
for you, no matter how slight, without expecting to be paid. Indeed
travelling and living here are very extravagant, and not the
slightest part of the trouble and expense are the perquisites which
it is expected you will give to servants of all kinds, post-boys,
coachmen, etc.

I have visited the cathedrals of Oxford and Westminster Abbey—two of the
finest specimens of Gothic architecture in England. I have not time to
give you a description of either. They are gloomy, venerable piles, and
give birth to many solemn associations. They recall past ages to your
view, and raise the mighty dead of former generations to be your
companions. As places of worship, however, they must be very damp and
uncomfortable. In Ireland the people have ceased to pay tithes. They
submit to have their articles seized, but the proctors can find no
purchasers for such articles at any price. The consequence has been that
nearly all payments have ceased. This country is at present in a very
distracted state. Never since the days of Charles I. has there been such
an excitement among the mass of the people. What will be the event, God
only knows. The king [William IV.], who this day week was one of the
most popular monarchs who ever sat upon any throne, is now detested or
rather despised by the people. His refusal to create the number of peers
necessary to carry the Reform Bill, and his alleged hypocrisy throughout
the whole proceeding, have occasioned this change in public sentiment. I
should not be astonished at a revolution; but yet I hope and trust that
the people may obtain their just rights without resorting to such a
dreadful alternative. The Church is not popular. Its rich livings are
conferred upon the younger branches of noble houses more with a view of
making a provision for their temporal wants than of providing for the
spiritual welfare of the people committed to their charge. The best
course is pursued in our own country, where men choose the ministry from
conscientious motives, and the people provide for them voluntarily. The
present system of tithes cannot continue much longer in this country
without some modification, unless there should be a much stronger
government than exists at present. Indeed, from everything I have seen,
although this is a country of vast wealth and resources, and of very
advanced civilization, I thank my God that I was born an American rather
than an Englishman.

I expect, God willing, to leave this place for St. Petersburg on Friday
next, the day of the sailing of the steam packet, and I hope to reach
the end of my journey on or about the first of June. I am anxious once
more to feel settled. From all the information I can receive the
diplomatic circle of St. Petersburg is a very agreeable one, and the
Emperor and Court entertain the most friendly feelings towards our
country. Prince Lieven, the Russian ambassador to this country, has been
very polite to me. Although I do not anticipate much happiness during my
continuance abroad, yet I have no doubt, with the blessing of
Providence, I shall be content. You need not expect to hear from me
again until I shall reach St. Petersburg. Please to send this letter to
mother, and drop a few lines to Maria. Write to me often. I feel very
anxious to hear from George. I trust in Heaven that he may be restored
to health. You will perceive by the papers that the cholera has almost
entirely disappeared from this city; indeed, it never was very
formidable here. I was at Covent Garden Theatre on Thursday evening, and
saw Young’s Tragedy of Revenge performed. Mr. Young, the most celebrated
tragedian of England, performed the part of Zanga. It was a most
masterly performance, and excited the deepest interest. Although I have
always admired that play, I never felt all its force and beauty until
that night. Give my love to mother, Jane, Harriet, George, Mr. Lane and
all the family, and believe me ever to be

                        Your affectionate brother,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                                          12:30, _Monday, May 14th_.

The Duke of Wellington is Premier; the members of his Cabinet not yet

Mr. Buchanan went from London to Hamburg by a packet, and thence made
the overland journey to St. Petersburg. I find only the following traces
of his travel:

                                          _Tuesday, May 22d_ [1832].

The appearance of Hamburg is calculated to make a favorable impression.
It is situated on the northern bank of the Elbe, the river here running
a little to the north of west. The old part of the town along and near
to the river has a very antiquated appearance. Most of the houses are
built with their ends fronting on the street, and they are composed of
wooden frame-work, the interstices being filled up with brick. In this
respect they resemble the ancient houses of Lancaster. Many of these
houses are three stories, and some of them more in height up to the
square—the gable end, and above it, contains one and two and three
stories with windows on the street until it comes to a point ornamented
with various figures.

The new part of the city is beautiful. In the northern part of it there
is a small lake, called the “Binnen Alster,” nearly square, and about a
quarter of a mile on each side. Around this lake, except on the northern
side, there are ranges of very fine houses built in the modern style, at
a considerable distance from it, so as to leave room not only for the
street, but for spacious walks shaded by trees, with benches placed at
convenient distances. Still further to the north there is a larger lake
communicating with the former called the “Grosse Alster.” All around
this lake and along the small stream which feeds it there are shaded
walks, public gardens and grass plots laid out with much taste, and kept
in perfect repair. The graveyard in the midst of them shows that man’s
long home may be made a subject of attraction for the living; and my own
feelings taught me that those who are led to the place appointed for all
living, from curiosity, may leave it under solemn and useful

I called this morning upon John Cuthbert, Esq., our consul, and left at
the house of Mr. Gossler, a senator of Hamburg, a letter of
introduction, with my card, which I had received from his brother at New
York. Mr. Cuthbert called with me on Monsieur Bacheracht, the
consul-general from Russia, who was sick in bed, and I left at his house
the letter from Prince Lieven. We also called on Mr. Parish, but did not
see him.

This is one of the ancient free cities of Germany. It is governed by a
Senate, consisting of twenty-four members, composed of lawyers and
merchants, each one-half. The Senate fills up its own vacancies as they
occur. It also elects four of its own members burgesses, in whom the
executive authority is vested. The deliberations of the Senate are in
secret. The duties on goods imported are but one-half per cent. _ad
valorem_, and the other taxes upon the people are very light. They
appear to be contented and happy, and I have yet seen but one beggar on
the streets. Indeed their language and appearance strongly reminded me
of Lancaster. The Senate also elects four Syndicks, but not of their own

According to their laws no foreigner can be a resident merchant here,
unless he goes through the forms and submits to the expense and
inconvenience of becoming a burgher. Mr. Cuthbert claimed for an
American naturalized citizen this privilege under our treaty with
Hamburg, without becoming a burgher, and after some correspondence on
the subject it was granted. This is a privilege which the English have
never yet obtained. I advised Mr. Cuthbert to send the correspondence to
the Secretary of State.

The outlet of the lakes into the river furnishes a water-power
sufficient to turn several mills, and water for a canal which is very
useful in connecting the river with the upper part of the city. It is
strange that not a single dock has been erected on the river by this
ancient city.

The constitution of Hamburg, although far from being free in the just
acceptation of the term, has secured to the citizens enviable
advantages, compared with many of the other states of Germany.

We dine with Mr. Gossler to-morrow.

(Here follows a minute account of the coins in common use in Hamburg.)

                                                          _May 23d._

We dined with Mr. Gossler, the son, in the country; his father, to whom
we had the letter, being now in England. Our host had resided in Boston,
and about three years ago married Miss Bray of that city. She is related
to the Elliott family, and is a sprightly, pleasant woman, who talks
very well. Besides our host and hostess, the company consisted of Mr.
William Gossler, their uncle, an old bachelor; Mr. Charles H. Carnegy, a
young Scotchman who came in the packet with us from London; Mr.
Wainwright, from Boston, also our fellow-passenger; Mr. Barry, and
myself. We spent a very agreeable afternoon and evening. We received an
invitation from Mr. Richard Parish to dine with him on Sunday at his
country place, which we were obliged to decline, intending to leave for
Lubeck on Saturday.

                                               _Thursday, May 24th._

In the morning, we visited Altona, a Danish town in Holstein adjoining
Hamburg, and below it on the river. Its appearance is similar to that of
the old part of Hamburg, though it contains some fine modern houses. The
public walks are also pleasant here. The population is said to be
25,000. In the afternoon, we ascended the steeple of St. Michael’s, and
had a fine view of the city. It is 480 feet in height. The church is a
fine building. I observed in it an altar, at some distance from the
pulpit, with an image above it of our Saviour on the cross. This in a
Lutheran Church was new to me.

Before I enter upon the business of the mission, some of the private
letters which Mr. Buchanan wrote to his friends at home, during the
summer of 1832, will be found to contain matters of interest. Whatever
other accomplishments he possessed or wanted, he certainly wrote very
agreeable letters. One of the first persons to whom he wrote, after his
arrival at St. Petersburg, was General Jackson.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                      ST. PETERSBURG, June 22, 1832.


You will, ere this reaches you, have heard of my arrival in this
capital, through the Department of State. Certainly it is not the place
I should select for my residence, though it may be justly termed a city
of palaces. The climate is healthy, but very cold. Indeed it can
scarcely be said that summer has yet commenced. Their winter continues
about seven months. At this season there is literally no night. I feel
confident I could read common print at 12 P. M. I use no candles. The
Americans and English here say they suffer more from the heat than from
the cold during winter. All the houses have double casements, double
windows, and very thick walls, and they are heated by stoves to a high
degree of temperature. The Russians still wear their cloaks in the
streets. The great objection which an American must feel to a residence
in this country does not arise from the climate, though that is bad
enough; it is because here there is no freedom of the Press, no public
opinion, and but little political conversation, and that very much
guarded. In short, we live in the calm of despotism. And what makes this
situation much more unpleasant to me is, that from some cause or other,
I know not yet what, this mission seldom receives any letters or
newspapers from the United States. I beg that you would take up this
subject yourself, and then it will be attended to. But this by the way.

It must be admitted, however, if we can believe the concurrent opinion
of all the foreigners resident here with whom I have conversed, that the
Emperor Nicholas is one of the best of despots. As a man of excellent
private character, as a husband, a father, a brother, and a friend, his
life presents a fit example for all his subjects. _But still he is a
despot._ But little occurred on my presentation to his Majesty worthy of
repetition, except what is contained in the despatch. He told me he had
one American in his service as his aide—that was Mr. Munroe; that he was
not then in St. Petersburg, having gone on board one of the ships in the
fleet for the purpose of making a campaign (for exercise and
instruction, I presume), and that he intended to be transferred from the
military to the naval service.

The empress talked very freely. She spoke on several subjects, and with
great rapidity. Amongst other things she observed we were wise in
America not to involve ourselves in the foolish troubles of Europe; but
she added that we had troubles enough among ourselves at home, and
alluded to our difficulties with some of the Southern States. I
endeavored in a few words to explain this subject to her; but she still
persisted in expressing the same opinion, and, of course, I would not
argue the point. The truth is, that the people of Europe, and more
especially those of this country, cannot be made to understand the
operations of our Government. Upon hearing of any severe conflicts of
opinion in the United States, they believe what they wish, that a
revolution may be the consequence. God forbid that the Union should be
in any danger! If unfortunate events should occur tending to destroy the
influence of our example, constitutional liberty throughout the rest of
the world would receive a blow from which it might never recover. In
making these remarks, I do not mean to state that the Russian government
are unfriendly to the people of the United States; on the contrary, I
believe they prefer us decidedly either to the English or French; but
yet they must attribute to our example the existence of those liberal
principles in Europe which give them so much trouble. Upon the whole, my
interview with the empress was quite agreeable.

There are three ambassadors at this court: Lord Heytesbury, the English;
the Marshal Duke of Treviso (Mortier), the French; and Count Figlemont,
the Austrian; and a number of ministers plenipotentiary of my own grade.
In point of rank I am at the tail of the list, and I should be very
sorry to suppose I would ever reach the head. The rule upon this
subject, however, is wholly unexceptionable: the minister who has been
longest here ranks the highest in his own grade. The Diplomatic Corps
have received me very kindly. This I may attribute to the high character
my country is everywhere acquiring. Your foreign policy has had no small
influence on public opinion throughout Europe. It is supposed Marshal
Mortier is not very agreeable to this government: he is the officer who
blew up the Kremlin.

I have taken a comfortable and well-furnished house in a beautiful
situation fronting on the Neva, to which I expect to remove next week.
My family will consist of Mr. J. Randolph Clay [Secretary of the
Legation], whom I have invited to live with me, Lieutenant Barry
[private secretary], and myself. My expenses will be great, but I shall
endeavor to keep them within my outfit and salary.

From an examination of the correspondence between Mr. Clay and the
Department I fear I shall have difficulties in the settlement of my
accounts. It was not possible for him with the most rigid economy to
exist as chargé d’affaires upon his salary, had he received all to which
he was entitled, and yet he has received but about $1880 per annum. So
far as I can understand the subject, the difficulty has arisen solely
from the circumstance that we are authorized to draw on Amsterdam, and
not on London. Surely this circumstance cannot change the amount of
salary to which a minister is entitled by law, nor ought Mr. Clay to
receive less at a more expensive court than Mr. Vail receives in
England. Mr. Livingston told me it would make no difference to me
whether I drew on Amsterdam or London, and this may eventually be the
case; but I am very anxious to avoid the difficulty of having a
troublesome account to settle with the Department. I should esteem it,
therefore, a particular favor, if it be just, that you would authorize
me to draw on London. Every difficulty on this subject would be removed,
if we were allowed five rubles here for a dollar, which is the manner in
which our consul settles his accounts; and I should suppose, from a
communication received by Mr. Clay from my friend Mr. Pleasonton, that
he now believes this to be correct. Pardon me for thus troubling you
with my own affairs......


                                   ST. PETERSBURG, July 15–27, 1832.


I received yours of the 4th of June on the 19th inst. It contains
melancholy information. I trust each one of us may be able to say in
relation to ourselves “God’s will be done!” I fear there is but little
hope for poor George. May his latter end be peace! God grant that he may
recover! ——’s marriage must have been a gloomy ceremony. I hope,
however, that joy may succeed to gloom, and that her marriage may be
happy. I fear that her husband’s health is not good. I would thank you
to make it a point to wish them happiness in my name. May they be united
in spirit here and be heirs of glory hereafter!

From some unaccountable neglect either at the Department of State or the
Legation in London, I have received no newspapers from the United States
since my arrival in this city except those which came in the vessels
with your two letters of the 3d of May and 4th of June; and these
letters are all I have received from our country except one from Mr.
Reynolds of Lancaster. I have thus been entirely deprived of the
pleasure of hearing anything from my relations but what you have
communicated. I shall endeavor to correct this evil; but in the meantime
it would be better to send letters intended for me to Mr. Crary or some
other friend in New York who would enclose them to our chargé in London
(Mr. Vail). I presume no ship will leave America for St. Petersburg
after you shall have received this letter until early in the next
spring. I hope my friends in New York will not neglect to send me
newspapers by every such opportunity.

I cannot complain of my situation here, though it is not very agreeable.
The press is under so strict a censorship that nothing is published
except what the government pleases. Every avenue through which liberal
opinions might enter this empire is carefully closed; and in fact but
few even of the higher classes of society know much of our country or
its institutions. An American minister, therefore, to this court enjoys
but few of the advantages he would derive from the character of his
country either in England or France. Notwithstanding, I have been
treated very civilly, particularly by the Diplomatic Corps and the
English, who are numerous here. We have an Episcopal church, of which a
Mr. Law is the rector. He is said to be a good man, and is a tolerably
good preacher; I have heard him twice. The service of the _English_
Church is very long; I think the retrenchments made in it by the Church
in the United States have been very judicious. There is also a Methodist
church here, which I have not visited.

The higher classes among the Russians in St. Petersburg have, I fear,
but little religion; and the common people are very ignorant and
superstitious. Although the Greek differs from the Latin Church in
regard to _the use of images_, yet they cross themselves here, with much
apparent devotion, before consecrated _pictures_, which are put up
everywhere throughout the city; and in passing the churches. Among this
class there is no honesty; they will always cheat you if they can. To
this rule I have not met with a single exception. Although I am far from
believing that a Puritanical observance of Sunday is required of us, yet
I confess I have been shocked with its profanation in this country. The
emperor and empress, who are models of correct moral deportment in other
respects, give their balls and grand fêtes on Sunday evening; and I am
confident it has never entered their thoughts that in this respect they
were acting incorrectly.

My domestic arrangements are very comfortable. My house is excellent and
very well furnished. It has the benefit of a fine view of the Neva, and
a southern exposure, which in this land of frost and snow is a great
advantage. We have not yet had one day which could be called summer. The
weather has been cool, and indeed the season has been more remarkable
than any which the oldest inhabitants have ever experienced. In common
seasons they have about six weeks of very warm weather. It is healthy
and my health is good.

Mr. Clay and Mr. Barry are very agreeable young gentlemen. The latter
desires to be remembered to you. The mulatto man I brought with me from
the United States is a valuable servant. I know not what I should do
without him.

Give my kindest love to George. I have written to him since my arrival
here. Give my love to mother, Jane, Maria, Harriet and all the family. I
have not yet written to Maria; I shall do so soon. Should you be in New
York on the receipt of this, remember me to my friends there. Praying to
God that we may meet again in health and prosperity in our native land,
I remain

                        Your affectionate brother,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                  [MR. BUCHANAN TO JOHN B. STERIGERE.]

                               ST. PETERSBURG, August 2, N. S. 1832.


Here I am, pleasantly situated in my own house, which commands a
delightful view of the Neva and all the vessels which enter this port.
The city is magnificent and beautiful. The buildings, both public and
private, have been constructed upon a grand scale; but the people are
ignorant and barbarous. With the exception of the merchants and a few
others in the commercial cities, there is no intermediate rank between
the nobleman and the slave. The serfs, however, are not unkindly
treated. They are attached to the soil, and in general are not bound to
labor for their masters more than three days in the week. Besides they
are furnished with land which they cultivate for themselves. No one can
be here for a month without being fully convinced that these people are
wholly unfit to take any share in the government, and it is doubtless
the policy of the emperor and nobles to keep them in this state of
ignorance. Throughout Germany the people have generally received the
rudiments of education and are fit for free institutions; but here
despotism must yet prevail for a long time. How happy ought we to be in
America! Would that we knew our own happiness! Coming abroad can teach
an American no other lesson but to love his country, its institutions
and its laws better, much better than he did before.

The emperor and the empress in their domestic relations are worthy of
all praise. In this respect their example is excellent, and I am
inclined to believe it has had a favorable effect upon the conduct of
their nobles. Still that is far from being of the best character.

From my own observation and experience since I left home, I do not think
a wise American ought to desire a foreign mission. For my own part I
should greatly prefer a seat in the Senate to any mission which the
Government could confer upon me. I trust, however, that I shall be
instrumental during my sojourn here in benefiting my country. If my
labors in accomplishing the objects of my mission were closed I should
be very desirous of returning home; but I shall remain as long as duty
requires, and endeavor to be content.

There has been great neglect in the Department of State or somewhere
else in forwarding my letters and newspapers. I have not yet received a
single newspaper, except a few which were sent me by some friends direct
from New York, and the two or three letters that have reached me refer
me to the papers for political news. This being the case, I charge you
by our mutual friendship to write to me often and give me all the news.
Please to send your letters to Campbell P. White or some other friend in
New York, not to the Department of State; and direct them to the care of
Aaron Vail, Esquire, our chargé in London. Perhaps it might be better to
enclose them to him. He is a very good fellow and will be attentive in
forwarding them. I was much pleased with him in London.

It seems Van Buren has been nominated by the Baltimore Convention;[30]
but Pennsylvania has not yet yielded her pretensions in favor of Mr.
Wilkins. I fervently hope that such a course will be pursued by our
State as not to endanger its vote in favor of General Jackson.

I have been well treated since my arrival by the Diplomatic Corps
generally; but particularly so by Lord Heytesbury the English, and the
Duke of Treviso the French ambassador, and by the Swedish and Hanoverian
ministers. So far as regards my personal feelings I am very sorry that
Lord H. has been replaced by Lord Durham. The latter does not promise to
be so popular as the former. I have not yet learned to submit patiently
to the drudgery of etiquette. It is the most formal court in Europe and
_one must conform to its rules. Foreign ministers must drive a carriage
and four with a postilion_, and have a servant behind decked out in a
more queer dress than our militia generals. This servant is called a
“chasseur” and has in his chapeau a plume of feathers. To this plume, as
it passes, the detachment of soldiers present arms, and individual
soldiers take off their hats. How absurd all this appears to a
republican! It was with some degree of apprehension that I took a house
on the north side of the river, although by far the best I could find;
because no foreign minister had resided on this side before; but it has
succeeded, and since I have set the example I have no doubt it will be
followed by others, as it has many advantages over the opposite shore.

Let me hear how you are succeeding at the law. Be not discouraged.
Persevere and with the blessing of Heaven your success is certain.
Remember me kindly to Mr. Paulding, Mr. Patterson, and all my other
friends whom you may chance to meet. If you all think as often of me as
I do of you, I shall be freshly remembered.

                         Ever your sincere friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.


                               ST. PETERSBURG, September 1–13, 1832.


I received your very agreeable letter of the 15th July on the 4th
September. I was very anxious indeed to hear from poor George, and
regret to learn that which I have for some time apprehended, that we can
indulge but little hope of his final recovery. Still it is a great
satisfaction to know that he does not feel alarmed at the prospect of
death. I trust his philosophy may be of the genuine Christian character
and that he may have disarmed death of its sting by saving faith in the
Redeemer of mankind. Still hope will linger and is unwilling to abandon
us when so near and dear a relative is the object.

I congratulate you upon your admission to the ministry and trust that
you may be an instrument in doing much good to your fellow-men......

The last advices from America have brought us most distressing news
concerning the progress of the cholera. We have heard that it was
subsiding in New York, but that it was making great ravages in
Philadelphia. God grant that it may not have extended into the interior
of Pennsylvania. I am now very anxious for news from America and expect
it by the next steamboat in a few days. There have been a few cases of
cholera in St. Petersburg during the present season. As the newspapers
here publish nothing upon the subject and there are no reports from the
police made public there has been scarcely any alarm. Indeed I suppose
that a large majority of the people know nothing of its existence. Dr.
Le Fevre, the physician of the British Embassy, told me to-day that in
the course of his practice, which is very extensive, he had met no case
for the last two weeks. Those places in Europe which have suffered from
the disease one year, generally have experienced a slight return of it
the next.

I think this climate will be favorable to my health, at least in regard
to the bilious complaints with which of late years I have been so much
afflicted. My life glides on smoothly here. The place is becoming more
agreeable to me as my acquaintance extends; yet I still feel like a
stranger in a strange land. I have so far mastered the French language
as to be able to read and understand it without much difficulty. It will
be some time, however, before I shall speak it fluently.

The Diplomatic Corps yesterday attended a Te Deum at the Church of St.
Alexander Nevsky. It was the day of that saint, who is the greatest in
the Russian calendar. The service was very magnificent and imposing;
though the tones of an organ would have made it grander. These are not
used in the Greek churches. The emperor was there and appeared to be
very devout. He often crossed himself, and in one part of the ceremony
kissed the hand of the archbishop. Think of the proudest and most
powerful potentate on earth still continuing to do so much reverence to
the clergy! Among other miracles, this saint, it is said, rode up the
Neva on a grindstone. After the service had concluded in the church, we
were present at the erection of a granite column to the memory of the
late Emperor Alexander—the largest and heaviest which has ever been
erected, it is said, in ancient or modern times. There were 2000 men and
an immense quantity of machinery employed.

I say again, rely upon the divine blessing and your own judgment in all
things, and I shall be content; but let it be taken coolly and not under
the influence of the idle talk of others. Settle in no place merely for
the sake of a settlement. You shall not be at any loss for money. Give
my love to mother and all the family, and believe me to be

                   Ever your affectionate brother,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                 ST. PETERSBURG, October 1–13, 1832.


I avail myself of the present opportunity of writing to you with the
more eagerness, as I know not when I shall again enjoy that pleasure.
The last steamboat for the season will leave here in about a fortnight,
and after that period no safe opportunity may soon offer. To put my
letters in the post-office here would be most certainly to expose them
to the Russian government; indeed they scarcely think it necessary to do
up the seals decently of those which I receive.

Both the emperor and Count Nesselrode have returned to the capital. I
may therefore expect a final answer to our propositions in a few days. I
dined with the count yesterday, who treated me with marked attention. I
suppose he thought it incumbent on him to do so, as it was the first
time he had invited me. The dinner was given to the French ambassador,
the Duke of Treviso, who leaves here to-day in the steamboat on leave of
absence. Whether he will ever return is, I think, doubtful. I do not
express this opinion, because I believe there is danger of immediate
hostilities between the two countries; on the contrary, I am satisfied
they will remain at peace whilst Louis Philippe shall continue on the
throne and pursue his present course of policy. How long the present
state of things may last in France is the question. I think you may rest
satisfied that Russia will not go to war for the King of Holland. She
will suffer France and England to carry into effect the decrees of the
London conference against him. This, however, will cause much irritation
here and in Prussia. Indeed, from my intercourse with the Russian
nobility, I believe a war with France to preserve Belgium for the King
of Holland would be highly popular. The emperor, however, has, I am
almost confident, determined it shall not be for the present. This is
wise, for I am persuaded that Russia has not yet sufficiently recovered
from the four wars which she has sustained since the accession of the
present emperor, to enable her to be as formidable and efficient as the
world believes her. As long, therefore, as things remain as they are in
France, there will not be war. An attempt on her part to interfere
forcibly with either Germany or Poland would instantly change the aspect
of affairs.

News of the death of King Ferdinand of Spain arrived here a few days
ago, but has since been contradicted. In the mean time it produced a
great sensation. It is considered that his death without a son must
necessarily produce a civil war in that ill-fated country, and perhaps
make the rest of Europe parties. His imprudent abolition of the Salique
Law in favor of his daughter, it is thought, will not be submitted to by
Don Carlos, in favor of whose succession the whole of the Apostolical
party will be found ranged. The government here ardently desires the
defeat of Don Pedro. Indeed any change in Europe in favor of liberal
principles would be disagreeable to them, and they even occasionally
publish ill-natured articles concerning the United States. This you will
perceive from the last St. Petersburg _Journal_, a file of which I shall
send by Mr. Mitchell, for whom I have obtained a courier’s passport. The
articles contained in newspapers here have the more meaning, as the
press is under a most rigid censorship. I am well acquainted, however,
with the chief censor, Count Laval, who is one of those noblemen who
have been the most polite to me, and I shall take some opportunity of
conversing with him on this subject.

England is, I think, fast losing her consideration on the Continent. The
present ministry are not believed to possess much ability, at least for
conducting foreign affairs; and they have so many embarrassing domestic
questions on their hands independently of the national debt, that they
cannot without the most urgent necessity involve the country in a war.
They have negotiated and paid for making Belgium a virtual province of
France—Greece of Russia; and, I think, they are in a fair way of losing
their commercial advantages in Portugal by an affected neutrality
between the hopeful brothers of the house of Braganza, for which they
receive no credit, at least in this country. Although Lord Durham was
treated with the most distinguished attention by the emperor, he
received almost none from the nobility; and they indulge in a bitterness
of remark both against him and his country which shows what are their
feelings towards England. Besides, he was an eccentric nobleman, and is
the subject of as many ridiculous stories as my predecessor. I am
sincerely glad that he has in some degree taken the place of the latter
in the gossip of this city. But this is a subject to which I would not
advert in writing to any other person. They have no free press here; but
they make up for the want of it in private scandal in relation to all
subjects on which they can talk with safety. The present British
minister, Mr. Bligh, is a plain, agreeable, and unassuming gentleman,
with whom my relations are of the most friendly character.

Within the last six weeks I have had the good fortune to make the
acquaintance of several noble families of the very highest rank, and I
am beginning to receive many attentions from that class. Their coldness
and jealousy towards strangers generally are fast disappearing in
relation to myself. Some accidental circumstances which it would be
useless to detail have contributed much to this result. I consider this
a fortunate circumstance, as the nobility exercise great influence in
this country. I think in my despatch of the 9th of August last I spoke
rather too harshly of them as a class; and although, with a few
exceptions, I by no means admire them, yet this shows how dangerous it
is to form opinions too hastily. The influence of the example of the
present emperor and empress, in the correctness of their private
deportment, is doing their nobility much good.

Too much care cannot be taken in selecting a minister for this court.
Indeed it would be difficult to find many suitable persons in our
country for this mission. In London and in Paris, our ministers enjoy
the consideration to which they are entitled from the exalted character
of their country; but here the character of the country must depend in a
considerable degree upon that of the minister. The principles of the
American Government, the connection between our greatness and prosperity
as a nation, and the freedom of our institutions, are a sealed book in
regard to the Russians. Their own press dare publish nothing upon the
subject, and all foreign papers, unless those of the most illiberal
character, are prohibited. The higher classes here must in a great
degree receive their information concerning our country from our
minister. This sufficiently points out what ought to be his
qualifications, and I regret my own deficiency in some important
particulars. Great talents are by no means so requisite as an easy
address, insinuating manners, and a perfect knowledge of the French
language. (In the latter I have already made considerable advances.)
Above all he ought to have a genuine American heart, in which I know I
am not deficient, always anxious to seize every favorable opportunity,
and many such occur, of making an impression in favor of his country.
There is one great disadvantage, however, under which a minister here
labors; and that is, the total inadequacy of the salary. These people
are fond of extravagance and show, and have not the least taste for
Republican simplicity and economy. In order that a minister may hold a
high place in their esteem, he must be able to return their civilities.
They judge much by appearances. The want of this reciprocity will be
attributed to the meanness of the minister or that of his country, or
both. Even the representative of his Sardinian Majesty receives $16,000
per annum. Now if I had $100,000 per annum, I would not pursue any
course of conduct in this respect which I should be ashamed to exhibit
to my countrymen; but surely if they were aware that their minister
could not return with Republican simplicity and dignity the civilities
which he cannot avoid receiving without giving offence, they would
consent to an increase of salary. I think $15,000 would be sufficient
for the purpose _without the outfit_. Perhaps it would be better to fix
it at $13,000, with the expense of a furnished house. At all events, I
must give some large dinners.

I make these remarks without feeling the slightest personal interest in
them, because nothing short of your express commands would induce me to
remain here longer than two years from the time of my arrival; and I
trust something may occur to justify my return to my native land within
a shorter period. I feel, however, if I had such a salary I could leave
a much more favorable impression of my country behind me. By the bye, I
do not know yet what I am to receive; if I should have to lose the
exchange between this and Amsterdam at its present rate, my salary will
but little exceed $8,000. If ever a change shall be made the salary of
the minister here ought to be fixed in silver roubles.

I have lately seen much of Mr. Politica, who is still attached to the
Foreign Office. His feelings towards our country appear to be very
friendly. From his conversation, I have reason to anticipate a favorable
issue to our negotiations; but I shall not allow myself to confide much
in unofficial conversations. I have no doubt that they feel it would be
their interest to negotiate with us; and they appreciate highly the
advantages of our trade; yet they entertain such strong prejudices
against commercial treaties, and there are so many wheels within wheels
in the complex system of their policy that it is safest not to expect a
treaty with too much confidence. I have no doubt, should they conclude
one with us, England would insist upon being placed on the same footing.
Besides, Count Cancrene, the Minister of Finance, is understood to be
opposed to all commercial treaties.

I ought to state that I believe the omission to invite Mr. Barry to the
reviews was unintentional, and Count Nesselrode expressed his sorrow to
Baron Krudener for the neglect before the latter left this city.

I shall soon be looking with great anxiety for news concerning our
elections. I read your veto message with very great pleasure. Although
rather inclined to be friendly to the re-charter of the Bank of the
United States, yet I am now free to say, I should vote for no bill for
that purpose liable to the objections of that which passed both Houses
of Congress. I am glad to observe the spirit which seems to animate the
Republican party of Pennsylvania, in relation to this subject. I
entertain no apprehension concerning the result of your election; but I
wish to see you come into office for a second period with that
triumphant majority which you are entitled to receive, both from the
wisdom and success of your foreign and domestic policy. I cannot think
that the unnatural union between the Clay men and the Anti-masons will
reduce your majority; as I believe the mass of both these parties is
honest and cannot approve such a political partnership.

Pardon me for not taking the trouble of correcting and re-writing this
long and rambling letter. I should do so did I not know it was only
intended for friendly eyes. I now receive my newspapers with tolerable
regularity, through the kindness of my friends in Hamburg and Lubeck.
This regulation will cease at the close of the present month, when the
steamboats will be discontinued. Please to present my best respects to
the members of your Cabinet. I have been for some time expecting a
letter from Major Barry. Remember me kindly to your family, and believe
me to be, wherever my lot may be cast,

       Your faithful, devoted and grateful friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.


                                 ST. PETERSBURG, October 13th, 1832.


I received yours of the 12th August dated Union, Va., on the 2d instant.
It gave me a gloomy picture of the state of poor George’s health and has
deprived me of the last ray of hope in relation to his recovery. Indeed
whilst I am writing this I have too much cause to apprehend that your
next will announce that he has bidden an eternal adieu to this vain and
transitory world. I had conceived the highest hopes of his future
eminence and usefulness. His talents were of the first order, his
manners were popular and his principles were, I believe, perfectly pure.
Alas! that his sun, which rose so brightly and promised such a brilliant
day, should so soon be extinguished. Such seems to have been the
inscrutable decree of an all-wise Providence. May our dear mother and
may we all be enabled to say, “Father, Thy will be done.” I feel the
deepest gratitude towards Dr. Semmes for his kindness. My acquaintance
with him was but slight, but I shall make it a point, should I ever have
an opportunity, of manifesting to him how much I have been penetrated by
his kindness. In the meantime do not fail to make my sentiments known to
him. It is probable that ere long I shall address him a letter returning
him my thanks. You can readily conceive what anxiety I shall feel until
the arrival of your next. I trust it may have pleased Providence to
enable poor George to reach Mercersburg.

My time here is gliding on not unpleasantly. When I reflect upon my past
life and the many merciful dispensations of which I have been the
subject, I cannot be too thankful to the Almighty. This land of
despotism is not the place where an American minister ought to have
expected many friends, particularly as the Russian nobility have but
little disposition to cultivate the acquaintance of strangers; it has
yet so happened that several of the very highest order have shown me
much kindness, and I have some reason to believe I shall be a favorite.
The English merchants, who are numerous, wealthy and respectable, have
been very civil, and the Diplomatic Corps have paid me all the attention
I could desire. Still I shall be happy when the day arrives that I can
with honor leave this elevated station and return to my native land.

The ladies here, as they are almost everywhere, are the best part of
society. Many of them and their children speak English very well, whose
husbands cannot speak a word of that language. There is a Princess
Tscherbatoff here with whom I have become very intimate. She has a
charming family and they have travelled much through Europe. She is a
lady of uncommon intellect, brilliant accomplishments, and yet preserves
great personal attractions. I mention her name for the purpose of
introducing a circumstance somewhat singular. By some means or other she
got hold of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and it has evidently produced a
considerable effect upon her feelings. She has read several of the old
English devotional books and likes to converse upon the subject of
religion. It is strange that my first and most intimate acquaintance
with a Russian Princess should have been with one conversant with the
writings of such men as John Bunyan and Isaac Watts. I doubt whether
there is another like her in this respect throughout the Empire. She is
a member of the Greek Church and attached to it; but informs me that she
often goes to hear a Mr. Neal preach, who is, I believe, a kind of
English Methodist. Her religion, and I sincerely believe she possesses
it, does not prevent her from being very gay and entering into the
fashionable amusements of her class. There is no estimating the good
which an able and pious man may be instrumental in performing, not only
in his own generation, but long after he has been gathered to his

The weather is now about as cold here as it is in Pennsylvania towards
the close of November. We have already had a slight fall of snow and
several severe frosts. In going out to dinner in the country on the last
day of September, I observed a very large oats field in shock. Very
little of it had been taken in. You may judge of the nature of the
climate from this circumstance, though this season has been remarkably
cold and damp. I can now readily believe, what I have often heard since
my arrival, that I should suffer less from cold in this country than in
my own. They regulate the heat of the houses by a thermometer; and their
stoves are so admirably contrived that they are large and beautiful
ornaments, and consume but very little wood compared with those of our
own country. My health still continues to be good, thank God!

Give my kindest love to my mother—how often do I now think of her with
gratitude and affection! to Jane, Maria, and Harriet, and to poor
George, if he be still living. Remember me to Mr. Lane, affectionately,
and to all the family.

I shall send this letter enclosed to Mr. Lane, with directions that they
may read it if you should not be in Mercersburg. Remember me to Uncle
John, Alexander and his lady, Mr. Reynolds and his lady, and to Mrs.
Martin and Molly Talbot, and believe me to be ever

           Your faithful and affectionate brother,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO MRS. SLAYMAKER.]

                                   ST. PETERSBURG, October 31, 1832.


I received your kind and agreeable letter of the 20th August last on the
8th instant. I scarcely know anything the perusal of which could have
afforded me more pleasure. I left no friend in my native land for whose
interest and welfare I have a greater solicitude than for your own. How
could it be otherwise? Your conduct since the lamented death of your
husband, whose memory I shall ever cherish, has been a model of
propriety. The severest critic could not find fault with any part of it,
unless it be that you have too much secluded yourself from society, of
which you are so well calculated to be an agreeable and instructive
member. I have never heretofore expressed these sentiments to you
because you might have considered them the language of flattery. As they
now proceed from “a stranger in a strange land,” I cannot believe you
will doubt their sincerity.

I fear I cannot with truth defend the chastity of the Empress Catharine.
She was a disciple of the school of the French philosophers, and was
therefore wholly destitute of religion—the surest safeguard of female
virtue. Her natural disposition was, however, good, and where her
ambition and her pleasures were not concerned she was an amiable and
kind-hearted woman. The Princess Dalgorouski, one of my most intimate
friends in this city (if I ought to use the term upon so short an
acquaintance), is the granddaughter of the youngest brother of the
Orloffs. She has several times amused me with anecdotes which she had
heard from her grandfather, all tending to prove the goodness of
Catharine’s heart. Among other things, it was not at all uncommon for
her to rise in the morning and light her own fire, rather than disturb
the slumbers of any of her attendants. She took great delight not only
in educating her own grandchildren, but others of the same age about the
court. Her son Paul, however, was always her aversion. When he succeeded
to the throne he acted like a madman, and I have often had to laugh at
the pranks of his tyranny. For example, he issued an edict commanding
all persons, whether male or female, either in the summer or the winter,
upon his approach to alight from their carriages and stand in the street
uncovered before him as he passed. Of course the latter part of the rule
applied to foot passengers. An English merchant, still living in this
city, attempted upon one occasion to make his escape as the Emperor
approached, but he was observed by the keen eye of Paul, and was
immediately sent for to the palace. His defence was that he was
near-sighted; and the Emperor immediately presented him with a pair of
spectacles, and commanded him never to be seen in public without having
them upon his nose. The command was literally obeyed, and the merchant
has ever since worn the spectacles. The anecdote is literally true.

The Emperor Alexander was a mild and amiable man; but his example, until
near the close of his life, was not calculated to restrain the
dissoluteness of manners which prevailed in the days of Catharine.
Circumstances, too tedious to mention in the limits of a hasty letter,
made him at last esteem his wife, the Empress Elizabeth, as she
deserved. In the commencement of his reign, he was a libertine, but he
died a fanatic. It is delightful to hear of the familiar intercourse
which he held with his subjects. He visited many families in this city
as a private gentleman whom etiquette prevented from appearing at court;
and upon such occasions he was as free and familiar, even with the
children, as though he had been of an equal rank. He died disgusted with
his high station, and exclaimed to Doctor Wyley, his physician, who was
remonstrating with him for not using his prescriptions, “I am sick of
this world, why should I desire to live?” Such is the end of human

The present emperor is, I think, the finest looking man, take him
altogether, I have ever beheld; besides he is a prince of great energy
and ability. However we may detest his conduct towards the Poles, which
has no doubt been exaggerated in the English and French papers, his
moral conduct, as well as that of the empress, in all their domestic
relations is without a blemish. Their example in this respect has
already had a happy influence on the nobility of this country. On
Saturday last I attended a Te Deum at court, celebrated on the occasion
of the birth of a young grand duke; and the gaieties of the season are
expected to commence as soon as the empress shall recover from her
accouchement. She is remarkably fond of dancing, in which she excels.

My time begins to pass much more pleasantly, or to speak with greater
accuracy, less unpleasantly than it did at first. To be an American
minister is but a slender passport to the kind attentions of the Russian
nobility. They know but little of our country, and probably desire to
know still less, as they are afraid of the contamination of liberty. I
have, therefore, had to make my own way in their society with but little
adventitious aid, and I confess I am sometimes astonished at my own
success. Among the ladies, who, in every portion of the world, are the
best part of society, I have many agreeable acquaintances. A greater
number of them speak the English language than of the gentlemen.
Besides, since my arrival here, I have learned to read and write the
French, and now begin to speak it in cases of necessity.

Besides the nobility there is an agreeable and respectable society here
of wealthy English and German merchants, among whom I have spent many
pleasant hours. Although they are not received at court, many members of
the Diplomatic Corps eat their good dinners, and treat them as they
ought to be treated, with kindness and civility. I hope to visit Moscow
before my return to the United States, and that, too, under favorable

I sincerely rejoiced to hear of the good fortune of our friends of the
Wheatlands. Lydia is a good little girl and deserves to be happy. I was
pleased with the anecdotes you gave me in relation to the match, and the
joy which my good friend Grace displayed upon the occasion. My worst
wish towards them is that they may derive all the happiness from it
which they anticipate. They are an excellent family, with whom I could
wish you to be more intimate. I would be better pleased with them, for
their own sakes, if they were less extravagant; “but take them for all
and all,” I feel the warmest interest in their welfare. I regret to
learn that Aunt Anne, in a state of depressed health and spirits, has
felt herself under the necessity of leaving her comfortable home in
Lancaster, to take charge of her son Henry’s family at the iron works.
It is just such conduct, however, as I should have expected from that
excellent and exemplary woman; she will always sacrifice her own comfort
to a sense of duty, or to the call of humanity. I shall never forget her
kindness towards myself. I beg of you to present her my best love (I
think I may venture to use the expression). Remember me kindly also to
Anny, and to Henry, Stephen and Samuel.

I have always appreciated the friendship of your mother as it deserved,
and have felt proud of her confidence. I trust that your hopes may be
realized, and that it may please Providence yet to permit me to enjoy
many happy hours in her society. She possesses an admirable faculty of
saying much in few words, and there is a point in her character which
gives a peculiar force to her expressions. I know her to be an excellent
mother and an excellent friend, and I warmly reciprocate her kind
feelings. Say to her that I ardently wish her many pleasant days, and
that the circumstances which have heretofore occurred to vex her peace
may not prevent her from enjoying an old age of comfort and happiness.
Remember me also in kindness to all your sisters.

But in what terms shall I speak of Mrs. H.? None of my friends, except
yourself, have mentioned her name in their letters, and I need scarcely
add that I did not even indulge the hope of receiving one from herself.
This I can say of her, and I now speak from actual knowledge, that her
manners and her talents would grace the most powerful and splendid court
in Europe. I fear, however, that such a treasure is not destined to
bless my pilgrimage.

I altogether approve your conduct in taking the Judge’s daughter into
your family. He is a most excellent man, and will know how to appreciate
your kindness. I regret to say I have received no letter from him since
I left the United States. When you see him, please to present him my
kindest remembrance. I heartily rejoice that you did not remove to
Columbia or Marietta.

From my last information from the United States I have reason to hope
that the good city of Lancaster has escaped the cholera. We have had
some of it here during the summer, but not so much as to produce any
serious alarm. I believe it has almost, if not altogether, disappeared.
Mr. Clay, my Secretary of Legation, has been very anxious to visit home
during the approaching winter, and I have given him leave to go by the
last steamboat for the season, which will leave this to-morrow, Mr.
Barry having agreed to officiate in his stead during his absence. He
will be the bearer of despatches, and intends to visit Lancaster. I hope
you will favor me with a long letter by him, and give me all the little
news of the town; for you have often said I was a great gossip. I shall
keep this letter open until I can ascertain whether I shall have time to
write to Mr. Reynolds, so that if not I may add a postscript intended
for him. The truth is that at present I am very much occupied. A tyro in
diplomacy, I am compelled to encounter the most adroit and skilful
politicians in the world, with no other weapons except a little
practical common sense, knowledge and downright honesty. Should I fail,
and I by no means despair of success, I wish to convince my government
that I have done my duty. It is probable that Mr. Clay will take no
private letters from me to the United States, except for my mother and
yourself. I need scarcely add that I have not time to write this over,
and give it such a polish as an answer to your letter deserves. When you
write, which I hope will be often, please to say nothing of Russia in
your letters but what may be favorable, as the post office here is not
too secure. This caution, however, does not apply to that one with which
I hope you will gratify me by Mr. Clay. Please to remember me kindly to
the whole family at the Wheatlands, to Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds and Miss
Lydia and Dr. Semple—to my old friend Miss Mary Carpenter, and to all
others bearing that character whom you may meet.

Wishing you Heaven’s best blessing, I remain,

            Ever your faithful and devoted friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

P. S. Please to remember me to Mr. Amos Slaymaker and Henry and his
wife. I hope Mr. Dickenson may, ere this reaches you, be restored to his
flock, and have a son and heir to bless his marriage bed.

I shall not have time to write to Mr. Reynolds. Please to deliver him
the enclosed, and tell him that I have no journal later than the 10th
August, although my other papers have arrived up till the middle of
September. You may also say to him, _but to him alone_ and caution him
not to repeat it, that the prospects of success in my mission, after
many difficulties, now begin to appear bright. I have received no letter
from him lately. Mr. Clay will not leave this for a fortnight yet, and I
shall send this letter by another opportunity to London.

As the reader has already learned, Mr. Buchanan had two very promising
younger brothers, one of whom died five years before he went abroad, and
the other was living and in apparently good health when he left the
country. The elder of these two, William Speer Buchanan, died at
Chambersburg in his 22d year, on the nineteenth of December, 1827, a few
months after his admission to the bar. He had graduated at Princeton in
1822, and studied his profession at Chambersburg and at the law school
in Litchfield, Connecticut. His father died while he was still at
Princeton: and a letter from his mother to his brother James, written in
1821, which lies before me, gives indications of his early

William Buchanan did not, like his next youngest brother, live to show
what he might have become. This other, and perhaps more brilliant member
of the family, George W. Buchanan, graduated at Dickinson college in
Carlisle, in 1826, at the age of eighteen, with the highest honors of
his class. Being nearly twenty years younger than James, the latter,
after the death of their father, took a parental interest in promoting
his prospects, and guiding his professional education, he studied law in
Chambersburg and Pittsburgh, and being admitted to the bar in Pittsburgh
in 1828, he began to practise there. In the autumn of 1830, as the
reader has seen, he was, doubtless on his brother’s request, appointed
by President Jackson United States District Attorney for the Western
District of Pennsylvania. Probably no man ever received a similar
appointment at so early an age; he was only two and twenty; but his
letters, some of which have been quoted, show great maturity of
character; and as his application for the appointment must have been
supported by the influence of other persons as well as by that of his
brother, it is safe to assume that the office was intrusted to fit
hands. He was already acquiring a lucrative private practice, when, in
the summer of 1832, his health began to fail. He died in November of
that year, and the following letter of Mr. Buchanan to his brother
Edward relates to the sad termination of his illness:

                               ST. PETERSBURG, Jan. 9th, N. S. 1832.


I have received your three letters of the 10th and 26th September and of
the 12th November: the first on the 21st October, the second not till
the 2d instant, and the last on the 28th December. You will thus
perceive that the one announcing the death of poor George had a very
long passage, having got out of the usual line and lain at Paris a
considerable time. I had heard of this melancholy event long before its
arrival. How consoling it is to reflect that he had made his peace with
Heaven before he departed from earth. All men desire to die the death of
the righteous; but a large portion of the human race are unwilling to
lead their life. I can say sincerely for myself that I desire to be a
Christian, and I think I could withdraw from the vanities and follies of
the world without suffering many pangs. I have thought much upon the
subject since my arrival in this strange land, and sometimes almost
persuade myself that I am a Christian; but I am often haunted by the
spirit of scepticism and doubt. My true feeling upon many occasions is:
“Lord, I would believe; help Thou mine unbelief.” Yet I am far from
being an unbeliever.

Ere this reaches you, you will probably have heard of the conclusion of
the commercial treaty, which was the principal object of my mission. My
success under all the circumstances seems to have been almost
providential. I have had many difficulties to contend with and much
serious opposition to encounter; but through the blessing of Providence
I have been made the instrument of accomplishing a work in which all my
predecessors had failed. I trust it will receive the approbation and
promote the interests of my country.

I entertain some faint hopes that I may be permitted to leave St.
Petersburg by the last steamboat of the next season; though it is
probable I shall be obliged to remain another winter. Nothing, however,
shall detain me longer than two years from the time of my arrival,
except an urgent sense of public duty or the request of General Jackson,
neither of which I anticipate. My anxiety to return home is increased by
the present state of health of mother and Jane. It is not in any degree
occasioned by want of kindness on the part of the people here. On the
contrary, I am everywhere received in the most polite and friendly
manner, and have good reason to believe I am rather a favorite, even
with the emperor and empress themselves.

I shall undertake to advise you strongly not to remain in Allegheny
Town. A letter which I have received from Dr. Yates confirms me in this
opinion. I am glad to find this seems to be your own determination.
There are but two brothers of us and you ought to use every precaution
to preserve your health consistent with your duty......

My health is good, thank God, and I trust it may so continue with His
blessing until we shall all once more meet again. With much love to
mother and the rest of the family, I remain

                        Your affectionate brother,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.


Footnote 26:

  Colonel Benton, writing to Mr. Randolph on the 26th of May, said:
  “Your nomination came up this morning, and was acted upon with great
  promptness. Tyler called it, but before it was called it was
  understood that the opposition would support it unanimously. This they
  did with some degree of _empressement_. Several voices from their side
  called for the question as soon as Tyler sat down, among them
  Louisiana Johnston, and Webster, were most audible. There were no yeas
  and nays, and nothing said by any person but Tyler, and only a few
  words by him, and those of course complimentary; the opposition
  evidently wishing to be observed as supporting it. Everybody is asking
  me whether you will accept. I tell them what surprises many, but not
  those who know you, that not a word between you and me had ever passed
  on such a subject.”

Footnote 27:

  In this debate, it was charged that the President’s Message was
  written by Mr. Van Buren, the Secretary of State, and that General
  Jackson was incapable of writing his official papers. It is very
  probably true that he did not write some of them. His Proclamation
  against the Nullifiers is generally assumed to have been written by
  Edward Livingston. But that General Jackson was capable of writing
  well, there can be no doubt. I remember, however, that in my youth,
  during his Presidency, it was generally believed in New England among
  his political opponents that he was an entirely illiterate man, who
  could not write an English sentence grammatically, or spell correctly.
  This belief was too much encouraged by persons who knew better; and it
  was not until many years afterwards that I learned how unfounded it
  was. There now lie before me autograph letters of General Jackson,
  written wholly with his own hand, and written and punctuated with
  entire correctness, and with no small power of expression. Some of
  them have been already quoted. These have been, and others will be,
  printed without the slightest correction. The handwriting is sometimes
  rather better, for example, than Mr. Webster’s. There is not a single
  erasure in any one of the letters, and but one very trifling
  interlineation. The spelling is perfectly correct through-out. General
  Jackson wrote better English than Washington: and as to King George
  III, the General was an Addison, in comparison with his majesty.

  When General Jackson visited New England as President, in the summer
  of 1833, the Degree of LL.D. was conferred upon him by Harvard
  College. This was much ridiculed at the time, in that neighborhood, on
  account of his supposed illiteracy.

Footnote 28:

  Mr. Livingston became Secretary of State in May, 1831, in the place of
  Mr. Van Buren, who resigned in order to be made Minister to England, a
  post to which he was nominated by the President, but he was not
  confirmed by the Senate.

Footnote 29:

  Mr. afterwards Sir William Brown, an eminent banker of extensive
  American connections.

Footnote 30:

  As Vice-President.

Footnote 31:

                    [MRS. BUCHANAN TO HER SON JAMES.]

                                                      July 3d, 1821.

  MY DEAR JAMES:— ... A letter from William came to hand on the 11th of
  June, in which he expressed considerable anxiety to return home, that
  he might once again see his father and receive his last benediction;
  but upon receiving the melancholy information of his death, his desire
  of coming home is subsided. I am highly gratified by the reception
  from him of a letter of the 18th, in which is exhibited a resignation
  to and acquiescence in the will of Providence, together with
  appropriate sentiments on that melancholy occasion, far beyond his
  years. For this I bless the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
  Hoping you may be ever the care of an indulgent Providence, and all
  your conduct regulated by His unerring wisdom, I subscribe myself your



                             CHAPTER VIII.


The serious business of negotiation began soon after Mr. Buchanan’s
arrival in St. Petersburg. He was charged with the duty of proposing a
commercial treaty with Russia, and also a treaty respecting maritime
rights. It would be impossible to attempt to carry my readers through
the maze of notes, protocols, and despatches which resulted in the
successful accomplishment of the main object of this mission. A brief
account of the principal persons concerned in the negotiation, and a
narrative of its general course, together with a few of its most
striking incidents, will perhaps be interesting.

At the head of the Russian chancery at this time was Count Nesselrode,
the great minister, who, in 1814, as the plenipotentiary of the Emperor
Alexander, signed the treaty between the Allied Powers and Napoleon,
which wrested from the latter the empire of France and the kingdom of
Italy, and confined his dominion to the island of Elba. Nesselrode, too,
in the same capacity, along with Lord Castelreagh and Prince Talleyrand,
concluded the second treaty of Paris between the Allied Powers and
France, after the final overthrow of Napoleon at Waterloo, the treaty
which restored the Bourbons to their throne. This distinguished person
was the son of a nobleman of German descent, who had been in the service
of the Empress Catharine II., and therefore, as well on account of the
traditions of his house, as of his remarkable abilities and erudition,
he must have been an interesting person to meet. He was, with all his
practical astuteness, a man of moderate and rational views. He appears
to have taken kindly to Mr. Buchanan from the first; but he was not
predisposed to a commercial treaty with the United States, and, indeed,
he had not bestowed much attention upon the subject. It had not been his
habit, or the habit of any of the Russian statesmen, during the long
wars in which Russia had been engaged prior to the year 1815, to look
much beyond the confines of Europe and those portions of the East which
were involved in the European system. Still, however, Count Nesselrode
was open to conviction upon the importance of a commercial treaty with
the United States; and it will appear in the sequel that the treaty was
at length carried in the cabinet, against strenuous opposition, by his
very dexterous management, seconded by Mr. Buchanan’s skilful course and
ample knowledge of the subject.

Baron Krudener, who was at this time the Russian Minister at Washington,
but who was at home on leave of absence when Mr. Buchanan came to St.
Petersburg, was opposed to all commercial treaties. So was Count
Cancrene, the minister of finance. He was an embodiment of the old
traditionary policy of Russia, which did not favor close or special
commercial alliances. From the time of the Empress Catharine, the
relations between Russia and this country had always been friendly; but
there had been no treaties concluded between the two countries, since
the Government of this Union had taken its present form, down to the
year 1824. The convention negotiated in that year by Mr. Middleton, and
ratified in 1825, was quite inadequate to reach the various interests of
trade that had since grown up, and was still less adapted to promote an
increase of the commerce between Russia and the United States. To make a
treaty which would answer these great purposes; establish the principle
that would entitle either party to require an equal participation in the
favors extended to other nations; provide for the residence and
functions of consuls and vice-consuls; regulate the rates of duties to
be levied oil the merchandise of each country by the other, so far as to
prevent undue discrimination in favor of the products of other
countries; and fix the succession of the personal estates of citizens or
subjects of either country dying in the territories of the other; all
this constituted a task to be committed on our side to able hands,
considering the obstacles that had to be removed. Mr. Buchanan was at
the age of thirty-eight, when he undertook this labor. Although he was
without official experience in diplomacy, I think it evident that he had
been a student of the diplomatic history of his own country and of
public law to a considerable extent; and what he did not know of the
trade between Russia and the United States before he left home, he made
himself master of soon after he arrived at St. Petersburg. He spoke of
himself in a letter quoted in the last chapter, as a tyro in diplomacy,
with no weapons but a little practical common sense, knowledge, and
downright honesty, with which to encounter the most adroit and skilful
politicians in the world. It will be seen that he found the encounter a
hard one. But his manners were conciliatory; his tact was never at
fault, so far as I can discover; and it is evident that he was a
favorite in all the circles of Russian society into which he entered. He
found that his weapons, good sense, knowledge of his subject, and a
certain honest tenacity of purpose, were sufficient for all the demands
of his position. When he first reached St. Petersburg, his knowledge of
the French language was quite imperfect, but he soon acquired sufficient
facility in speaking it for the ordinary purposes of conversation. Count
Nesselrode did not speak English well, but he could converse in that
language, although he did not like to trust himself to it entirely. Mr.
Buchanan’s French was perhaps rather better than the count’s English.
They do not seem in their intercourse to have used an interpreter, but
in one or the other language they got on together very well.

After Mr. Buchanan’s arrival and the necessary formalities had been gone
through according to the rigid etiquette of the Russian court, he wrote
privately to General Jackson on the 22d of June (1832) in regard to the
prospects of his mission, as follows:

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                      ST. PETERSBURG, June 22, 1832.

    .      .      .      .      .      .      .      .      .      .

I am not without hope of succeeding in the negotiation, though I can say
nothing upon the subject with the least degree of certainty. I entertain
this hope chiefly because I am now fully convinced it is their interest
to enter into a treaty of commerce with us. In a casual conversation the
other day with Baron Krudener I explained my views of the great
advantages Russia derived from our commerce with St. Petersburg, and how
much, in my opinion, the agriculture and the general prosperity of the
colonies on the Black Sea would be promoted by encouraging American
navigation in that quarter. Yesterday I had another conversation with
the baron from which it was evident he had been conversing with Count
Nesselrode upon the subject; and the impression which I have received
from him is rather favorable. Still it is of a character so vague that I
place but little reliance upon it. I shall see Count Nesselrode at one
o’clock to-day, and will keep this letter open until after our

3.30. I have just returned from Count Nesselrode’s, and from our
interview I entertain a hope, I may say a good hope, that I shall be
able to conclude both treaties with this government. I am sorry I shall
not have time to prepare a despatch for Mr. Livingston to be sent by
Captain Ramsay. He shall hear from me, however, by the first _safe

[There is one subject to which I desire briefly to direct your
attention. I should write to the department about it, but my views are
not yet sufficiently distinct to place them there upon record, and
besides there is not now time. In case a treaty should be made with this
government on the subject of maritime rights, its provisions ought to be
framed with great care, because it will probably be a model for similar
treaties with other nations. In looking over the project in my
possession, I find one provision which it strikes me the cabinet ought
to re-examine. It is the proviso to the first article. This proviso was
not introduced into our earlier treaties. It first found a place in that
with Spain and has since been copied into our treaties with Colombia,
Central America and Brazil.

Why should this limitation exist? I shall allude to my views by
presenting a supposed case, for I have not time to do more.

Suppose Great Britain, which does not recognize the principle that “free
ships make free goods,” and Russia to be engaged in war after the
treaty, the United States being neutral.

1. Would it not be greatly for our interest (more particularly as from
our character we shall generally be a neutral nation) if our ships could
carry the goods of Englishmen to Russia and all over the world, without
these goods being subjected to capture by the armed vessels of Russia?

2. Would not great embarrassments arise if Russian vessels of war, after
ascertaining that a vessel belonged to a citizen of the United States,
which is all they could do under the general principle, should then
under the proviso be permitted to inquire into the ownership of the
cargo, and if they suspected it belonged in whole or in part to English
subjects, to seize and take it before a prize court?

3. This proviso could only have been introduced to force England into
the adoption of the rule that “the flag covers the cargo;” but how can
it produce that effect? It will render the property of an Englishman as
insecure on board an American as a British vessel; it being equally
liable to seizure in either. But let the rule be general, let our flag
protect the cargo, no matter who may be the owner, and then English
merchants will have the strongest inducements to employ our navigation.

4. Would not the promise make the treaty itself a felo de se, whenever
Russia shall be at war with a nation which does not recognize the
general rule?

5. If England should at any time be neutral and we at war, the general
rule adopted between us and Russia will not prevent us from capturing
our enemies’ goods on board British vessels.

6. These suggestions become of much more importance when we consider
that we may have similar treaties with many nations.

These crude remarks are merely intended to direct your attention to the
subject. I consider it very important and should like to hear from the
department in relation to it as soon as possible. We shall first take up
the treaty of commerce, I presume; indeed Count Nesselrode has asked for
my views in writing on that subject.

It might be of consequence to me to have a copy of our treaty with

In haste, I am, with the greatest respect,

                                      Your friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

P. S. Please remember me to the members of your cabinet and also your

2d P. S. Captain Ramsay, for whom I had obtained a courier’s passport,
will not go to-day; but I have fortunately just heard of a vessel about
sailing for Boston, by which I send this.

At a little later period, Mr. Buchanan formally submitted to Count
Nesselrode the propositions which he had been instructed to make as the
basis of a commercial treaty, and those which related to the subject of
maritime rights, or the rights of neutrals during war. Nothing definite
was arrived at on either topic until the 8th-10th of October. On that
day, Mr. Buchanan received a note from Count Nesselrode, requesting him
to call at the Foreign Office on the succeeding Monday. What followed
was certainly a most remarkable occurrence. The count began the
conversation by asking whether the answer which he was about to make to
the American propositions would be in time to reach Washington before
the next meeting of Congress. Mr. Buchanan replied that it would not,
but said that it might reach Washington within a fortnight after that
period. The count then asked if the answer could be sent immediately.
Mr. Buchanan replied that if, as he hoped, the answer should be
favorable, he would take measures to send it at once. The count then
stated reasons, which had led the emperor to decline the American
proposition for concluding a treaty of commerce and navigation between
the two countries, but made no allusion to the proposed treaty
concerning maritime rights. Here there was a dilemma, for which Mr.
Buchanan was not prepared by anything that had preceded; for although he
was well aware of the interior opposition to a commercial treaty in the
Russian cabinet, and was not very sanguine of success, he had placed his
hopes on Count Nesselrode’s ability and disposition to overcome that
opposition. That the emperor had come to an unfavorable decision, and
that Count Nesselrode had been directed to communicate it, was rather an
unexpected event. Nesselrode, however, contrived to make Mr. Buchanan
understand that the emperor had yielded in this matter to the opinions
of Count Cancrene, the minister of finance, and of M. de Blondorff, the
minister of the interior, and that the result had not been in accordance
with his, Nesselrode’s, judgment. Such an occurrence could hardly have
taken place in an English cabinet, still less would it have been
communicated to a foreign minister; but in Russia it was perhaps not
uncommon for the prime minister to be overruled by his colleagues. But
Count Nesselrode knew a way to get over all such difficulties; and he
proceeded in a very characteristic manner to accomplish what he
intended. He went over anew the whole ground, encouraging Mr. Buchanan
to develop again the reasons which made a commercial treaty desirable
for both countries and finally requested him to put them in the shape of
a formal note. He then assumed a very confidential tone, which may be
best described by Mr. Buchanan’s own account, given in his despatch of
October 19–21, to the secretary of state.

“Towards the conclusion of the interview he laid aside altogether, or at
least appeared to do so, the wary diplomatist, and his manners became
frank and candid. He made the request and repeated it, that I should
submit a new proposition for the conclusion of a commercial treaty, and
accompany it by an abstract of the explanations which I had just made,
impressing it upon me to advert especially to the trade with the Black
Sea, and the moral influence, to use his own expression, which such a
treaty might have on the people of the United States. I told him I
should do so with pleasure. He then requested me to send it as soon as I
conveniently could and he would immediately submit it to the emperor,
and give me an answer before the departure of the last steamboat, which
was to leave St. Petersburg on Wednesday, the 19–21 instant. He
afterwards asked me whether I intended to send the note to Washington
which he had delivered to me, by the next steamboat; and from his manner
it was easy to perceive that he wished I would not. I replied that I
should certainly delay sending it until the last steamboat, hoping that
in the meantime I might receive a better one......

Some conversation, not necessary to be repeated, was held on other
subjects, and I took my leave much satisfied with the interview and
arguing from it the most happy results, should Count Nesselrode possess
sufficient influence to carry his own wishes into effect, against those
of Count Cancrene.”

In a short time after Mr. Buchanan’s new communication had been sent to
Count Nesselrode, a further step was taken in what might almost be
called a diplomatic intrigue. Baron de Brunnow, a counsellor of state,
and the confidential friend of Count Nesselrode, called upon Mr.
Buchanan, and informing him that he came by the count’s request, said
that Mr. Buchanan’s views contained in his note were perfectly
satisfactory to the count, and that they were so clearly and distinctly
expressed that they could not be misapprehended, and that the count
would be happy to become the medium of presenting them to the emperor,
and would use his influence to have them adopted. But in order that
nothing might appear which would show that Count Nesselrode had
requested Mr. Buchanan to submit a new proposition for a commercial
treaty, the baron desired Mr. Buchanan to modify the language of his
note, so that it would not appear to be written in compliance with any
wish which the count had expressed. Perceiving the struggle which was
about to ensue in the cabinet between Nesselrode and Cancrene, Mr.
Buchanan at once agreed to change the phraseology of his note. Baron
Brunnow requested that it might be done immediately, as it was Count
Nesselrode’s intention to have the note translated into French on that
day, and to go with it to the emperor on the next morning, so that an
answer might, if possible, be obtained before the departure of the next
steamboat. Baron Brunnow made no secret of Count Cancrene’s opposition
to all commercial treaties, but said that Count Nesselrode saw no
objection to such a one as Mr. Buchanan had proposed; that he had
repeated Mr. Buchanan’s observation that “statesmen often found it
expedient to yield even to honest prejudices for the purpose of
promoting the public good,” and had said that he had no doubt such a
treaty would produce a beneficial effect on the American trade with the
Black Sea.

This mode of facilitating Count Nesselrode’s movements being arranged,
the conversation between Mr. Buchanan and Baron Brunnow turned upon the
proposed treaty concerning maritime rights, of which an account will be
given hereafter. Excepting the interchange of formal notes relating to
the commercial treaty, nothing further occurred until the 31st of
October, when Mr. Buchanan calling at the Foreign Office by appointment,
found Count Nesselrode “in fine spirits and in the most frank and candid
mood.” But he said that it would be impossible to conclude the treaty
before the end of a fortnight. In making the arrangements for sending to
the United States the new notes which had passed, the count expressed
the strongest desire that the British government should not obtain any
knowledge that such a treaty was in contemplation; and for this reason
he offered to send Mr. Buchanan’s despatch for Washington by a Russian
courier, to be delivered to Mr. Vail, the American chargé in London. Mr.
Buchanan preferred another channel of communication with Mr. Vail, and
through that channel his despatch was sent off on the following day. The
attitude in which it left the whole affair of the commercial treaty was
thus summed up by Mr. Buchanan:

“For several weeks before the receipt of Count Nesselrode’s first note,
I had but little expectation of concluding a commercial treaty. Mr.
Kielchen, lately appointed consul at Boston by this government, informed
me, some time ago, that Count Cancrene had resolved never to consent to
the conclusion of such a treaty with any power whilst he continued in
the ministry, and his influence with the emperor, particularly on
commercial subjects, was universally admitted to be very great. He has
the character of being an obstinate man; and I scarcely allowed myself
to hope, either that he would change, or be defeated in his purpose. I
feel the more happy, therefore, in being able to congratulate you upon
our present favorable prospects.”

Nothing was heard from Count Nesselrode for nearly a month; but on the
evening of November 21st Mr. Buchanan met him at a party. The count took
Mr. Buchanan aside, and told him that he believed he was now ready for
him, and proposed to send him a project of a treaty of commerce which
should be founded on the provisions of the American treaties with
Prussia, Sweden and Austria. Long interviews and oral discussions of
this project then took place at the Foreign Office between Mr. Buchanan,
Count Nesselrode, Baron Brunnow and Baron Sacken. In these discussions
Mr. Buchanan evinced the most thorough acquaintance with the whole
subject, and gave the Russian statesmen information which was new to
them and greatly surprised them. At length all the details of the treaty
were settled, and by the 17th of December it was prepared for signature
in duplicate, in the French and English languages. Still the treaty was
not yet signed. For the purpose of expediting the matter, Mr. Buchanan
made a suggestion that as the emperor’s fête day, or his saint’s day,
was to be celebrated on the 18th December, N. S., that it should be
signed on that day. Count Nesselrode was pleased with the suggestion,
and said that Mr. Buchanan’s wish should be gratified, if possible.
Baron Sacken doubted if it would be practicable, but the count said it
must be done, and that Mr. Clay, the American Secretary of Legation,
could assist them in making the copies. This occurred on the 13th of
December, N. S. It was not, however, until Mr. Buchanan was in the
presence of the emperor, at his levée on the morning of the 18th, that
he felt finally assured that the treaty would be signed, although Count
Nesselrode had informed him on the 15th that he was authorized to sign
it. What occurred at the emperor’s levée will be best told by Mr.
Buchanan himself:

On Tuesday morning, the 18th, we went to the emperor’s levée; and on
this occasion a singular occurrence took place in relation to the

The strictest secrecy had been preserved throughout the negotiation.
Indeed I do not believe an individual, except those immediately
concerned, had the least idea that negotiations were even pending. A
rumor of the refusal of this government to make the treaty had
circulated two months ago, and I was then repeatedly informed in
conversation, that it was in vain for any nation to attempt to conclude
a treaty of commerce with the Russian government, whilst Count Cancrene
continued to be minister of finance. Count Nesselrode had on one
occasion intimated a desire that the British government should not
obtain a knowledge that negotiations were proceeding, and this was an
additional reason on our part for observing the greatest caution.

It ought to be remembered, however, that this intimation was given
before information had reached St. Petersburg of the conclusion of the
late treaty between France and England in relation to the Belgian
question. The diplomatic corps, according to the etiquette, were
arranged in a line to receive the emperor and empress; and Mr. Bligh,
the English minister, occupied the station immediately below myself. You
may judge of my astonishment when the emperor, accosting me in French,
in a tone of voice which could be heard by all around, said, “I signed
the order yesterday that the treaty should be executed according to your
wishes;” and then immediately turning to Mr. Bligh asked him to become
the interpreter of this information. He (Mr. Bligh) is a most amiable
man, and his astonishment and embarrassment were so striking that I felt
for him most sincerely. This incident has already given rise to
considerable speculation among the knowing ones of St. Petersburg;
probably much more than it deserves.

I ought to remark that when I was presented to the emperor, I understood
but little, I might almost say no, French; and there was then an
interpreter present. Supposing this still to be the case, the emperor
must have thought that an interpreter was necessary, and he was correct
to a certain extent, for I have not yet had sufficient practice to
attempt to speak French in the presence of the whole court. I trust this
may not long be the case; but I still more ardently hope I may not very
long continue in a situation where it will be necessary to speak that

There can be no doubt but that all which occurred was designed on the
part of the emperor; and what must have rendered it still more
embarrassing to Mr. Bligh was, that one object of Lord Durham’s mission
is said to have been the conclusion of a commercial treaty with Russia.

After the emperor had retired, Mr. Bligh, in manifest confusion, told me
he feared he had been a very bad interpreter, and asked me what kind of
a treaty we had been concluding with Russia, to which I replied it was a
treaty of commerce.

Count Nesselrode was not present at the moment, and from his manner when
I informed him of the incident, I believe he had not previously received
any intimation of the emperor’s intention to make such a disclosure.

The count and myself afterwards proceeded from the palace to the Foreign
Office and there signed the treaty. The only persons present were Baron
Brunnow and Baron Sacken. On this occasion but little worthy of
repetition occurred. They all exhibited the greatest cordiality and good
will, and the count emphatically declared that he believed we had that
day completed a work which would result in benefits to both nations.

On taking my leave, I expressed no more than I felt, in thanking him for
his kind and candid conduct throughout the whole negotiation, and he
paid me some compliments in return......

Thus, sir, you have in my different despatches a faithful history of the
whole progress of the negotiation up to its termination. Independently
of the positive advantages secured to our commerce by the treaty, and of
the stipulation prohibiting Russia from granting favors to any other
nation at our expense, there is another consideration which deserves
attention. I think I cannot be mistaken in asserting that if the
feelings of the Russians towards our country in the days of the Emperor
Alexander were of a kindly character, which I have no reason to doubt,
they have undergone some change since the accession of his present
majesty. In a future despatch I may probably state my reasons for this
impression. The very fact, however, of concluding the present treaty and
thus distinguishing us from other commercial nations, connected with the
time and manner in which his majesty thought proper to announce it, will
have a powerful influence favorable to our country among the members of
a court where every look and every word of the emperor is noted and
observed almost as if he were a Divinity. I may say that I have already
experienced a change: even Count Cancrene, in a conversation with Baron
Steiglitz of this city, has expressed his assent to the treaty,
observing at the same time that the United States formed an exception to
his general principles on this subject. He added a compliment to myself
of such a character as I know I do not deserve, and therefore I shall
not repeat.[32]

In announcing to the Secretary of State (on the 20th of December, 1832,
N. S.) the conclusion of the commercial treaty, Mr. Buchanan said:

“I have now the pleasure of transmitting to you a treaty of commerce and
navigation, which was signed on Tuesday last, the 18th instant, between
the United States and Russia, by Count Nesselrode and myself. I
congratulate the President, that after many fruitless attempts have been
made by our Government to conclude such a treaty, it has at last been

“Like yourself, I confess, I did not entertain sanguine hopes of success
when I left Washington. The despatch of Mr. Randolph upon this subject
was indeed very discouraging. The difficulties in prospect, however,
served only to inspire me with a stronger resolution to accomplish, if
practicable, the wishes of the President. This I trust has been done
without the slightest sacrifice, in my person, of either the dignity or
the honor of the country. Should my conduct throughout this difficult,
and in some respects extraordinary negotiation, receive his approbation
and that of the Senate, I shall be amply compensated for my labors.”

That Mr. Buchanan was not equally successful in concluding a treaty
concerning maritime rights is a matter that admits of easy explanation.
In the communication which was made to him by Count Nesselrode in
October (1832), there was conveyed a respectful refusal to make the
commercial treaty. At the interview which took place afterward between
Baron Brunnow and Mr. Buchanan, at the house of the latter, after they
had arranged for re-opening the negotiation concerning a commercial
treaty, there was a conversation on the other subject, which was thus
reported by Mr. Buchanan to the Secretary of State:

After our conversation ended on this subject,—I referred to that portion
of the note of Count Nesselrode which declined our offer to conclude a
treaty on maritime rights, and said that the President would probably
not be prepared for this refusal. I told him that on the 28th August,
1828, N. S., a few months before the election of General Jackson, Baron
Krudener had addressed a communication to the Department of State which
gave a strong assurance that the emperor was willing to conclude such a
treaty. That when General Jackson assumed the reins of Government in the
month of March following, he had found this communication on file, and
that was the principal reason why he had given Mr. Randolph instructions
to conclude a treaty concerning neutral rights. I was therefore
surprised no allusion whatever had been made to this important letter in
the note of Count Nesselrode, and that he had passed it over as though
it had never existed, whilst he referred to the note he had addressed to
Mr. Middleton so long ago as the 1st of February, 1824, for the purpose
of explaining the views of the imperial government at the present

I then produced the communication of Baron Krudener to Mr. Brent of the
16–28th of August, 1828, and read it to Baron Brunnow. After he had
perused it himself, he expressed his surprise at its contents, and said
he did not believe a copy of it had been transmitted to the Foreign
Office; that he could say for himself he had never seen it before. He
thought the baron must have gone further than his instructions had
warranted; and that instead of expressing the willingness of the emperor
to _adopt by mutual agreement_, the principles concerning neutral rights
proposed by the United States, he ought merely to have expressed the
_concurrence_ of the emperor in those principles and his desire to
preserve and protect them. He added that these rights were best
maintained by the power of nations, and we had nobly defended them
during our late war with England. I replied, that was very true, and the
United States were becoming more and more powerful every year, and had
less and less occasion to rely upon treaties for the maintenance of
their neutral rights.

I afterwards remarked that I thought the count, from the tenor of his
note, had probably overlooked one circumstance of importance in
considering this subject, as he had placed the refusal chiefly on the
ground that it would be useless for only two powers to conclude such a
treaty between themselves. That the fact was, the United States already
had treaties of a similar character with several nations, which I
enumerated, and that if Russia had concluded this treaty, in case she
should hereafter unfortunately be engaged in war with any of these
powers, the property of her subjects would be secure from capture by
their ships of war, on board of American vessels. He replied that as to
Prussia, Sweden, and Holland there was little danger of any war between
them and Russia; and that we had no such treaties with the maritime
powers with whom Russia was likely to be engaged in hostilities.

(Evidently, as I supposed, alluding to England and France.)

In the course of the conversation, I regretted that I had never seen the
note addressed by Count Nesselrode to Mr. Middleton in February, 1824,
and that there was no copy of it in the archives of the legation here.
He then said he would take pleasure in sending me a copy, and thought he
might assure me with perfect confidence, from the feelings of Count
Nesselrode towards myself, that he would be happy to send me at all
times copies of any other papers I might desire from the Foreign Office.

He at first proposed to repeat this conversation to Count Nesselrode. I
replied I had no objection. It was not intended by me as an attempt to
renew the negotiation at the present time; but merely to make some
suggestions to him in free conversation. Before he took leave, however,
he said he believed that as his mission to me had been of a special
character, he would report nothing to the count but what had a relation
to the commercial treaty—except that I desired to have a copy of his
note to Mr. Middleton; but that after the other subject was finally
disposed of, he thought I ought to mention these things to Count
Nesselrode myself. I told him I probably might, that what I had said to
him on this subject, had been communicated in a frank and friendly
spirit, and I considered it altogether unofficial. No doubt he repeated
every word.

What is here related occurred in the autumn of 1832, and the subject of
maritime rights was not again alluded to until the following spring.
Writing to General Jackson a private letter on the 29th of May, 1833,
Mr. Buchanan said:

I fear I shall not be able to conclude the treaty concerning maritime
rights, though I shall use my best exertions. My late attempt to
introduce the subject was not very successful, as you will have seen
from my last despatch.

I have now, after much reflection, determined on my plan of operations.
It would not be consistent with the high character of our Government, or
with what I am confident would be your wishes, that I should make
another direct official proposition, without a previous intimation that
it would be well received; and we might thus be subjected to another
direct refusal so soon after the last. It is therefore my intention to
present my views of the subject in the form of an unofficial note, and
to express them with as much clearness and force as I am capable [of]. I
shall not in this note seek a renewal of the negotiation; though I shall
leave it clearly to be inferred that such is my desire. If they should
not move in the business afterwards, it would neither be proper nor
dignified to press them further.

I am convinced they are endeavoring to manage England at present, and
that this is an unpropitious moment to urge them to adopt principles of
public law which would give offence to that nation. Besides, Russia has
now a large navy, and but a small commercial marine; and it is not for
such a power as she now believes herself to be, to desire to change the
law of nations in such a manner as to abridge her belligerent rights.
The principle “that free ships shall make free goods,” will always be
most popular with nations who possess a large commercial marine and a
small navy, and whose policy is peaceful. But I shall do my best. I hope
this question may be determined by the beginning of August, as I should
then have the opportunity of seeing something more of Europe, and yet
reach the United States about the end of November. By the last accounts,
my mother’s health was decidedly better, so that on that ground I need
not so much hasten my return.

I have received many letters which give me strong assurances that I
shall be elected to the Senate. I confess, however, that I feel very
doubtful of success. The men in Pennsylvania, who have risen to power by
the popularity of your name, while in heart they are opposed to you,
will do every thing they can to prevent my election. The present
governor is greatly influenced by their counsels, and his patronage is
very great and very powerful. Besides, the Nullifiers and their organ,
the _Telegraph_, will show me no quarter. Thank God! I know how to be
content with a private station, and I shall leave the Legislature to do
just as they please......

Our excellent consul here is in very bad health from the severity of the
climate. His physician says that he must travel, and that immediately:
but I entertain some doubts whether he has sufficient strength left for
the purpose. It is said, however, that he was restored once before by a
change of climate, when in an equally weak condition. He purposes to set
off in a few weeks, and Mr. Clay, who will have little else to attend
to, will do his business cheerfully during his absence. I sincerely wish
he could obtain a situation in a milder climate. It would be a most
happy circumstance for the commerce of the United States if all our
consuls were like Mr. G. After sending my note to Count Nesselrode, I
intend to visit Moscow for a few days, as he is to be absent himself. I
beg to present my respects to your family, and to Messrs. Barry, Taney,
McLane and Woodbury.

The simple truth is, that the Russian government, since the intimation
made by Baron Krudener just before General Jackson became President, had
changed its mind in regard to the subject of maritime rights. The reason
for declining to make the treaty in 1832–33, as explained by Count Pozzo
di Borgo to Mr. Buchanan, in Paris, accords entirely with what Mr.
Buchanan had learned at St. Petersburg.[33] The attitude of the Belgian
question, and the relations of Russia towards England, precluded the
acceptance of the American proposal to establish by treaty between
Russia and the United States the principle that “free ships make free

All of Mr. Buchanan’s official duties at St. Petersburg were not,
however, so entirely pleasant as the negotiation of the commercial
treaty. While this negotiation was in its early stage, Baron Sacken, who
had been left by Baron Krudener as Russian chargé d’affaires at
Washington, made to the Secretary of State a somewhat offensive
communication, complaining of certain articles in _The Globe_, the
official paper of the American Government, concerning the conduct of
Russia towards Poland. The complaint was doubtless made in ignorance of
the fact that although the _Globe_ was the official gazette of our
Government, the President had no control over or responsibility for its
editorial articles, or the articles which it copied from English or
French journals. The freedom of the press in this country was not
understood by Russian officials; and although it does not appear that
Baron Sacken’s act was directed from St. Petersburg, there can be no
doubt that in making the complaint he did what he believed would be
acceptable to his superiors at home. He, however, considerably overshot
the mark, in the tone and manner of his communication to the Department
of State, and it became necessary for the President to direct Mr.
Buchanan to lay the matter before the Russian government. This was done
by a despatch from Mr. Livingston, courteous but firm, pointing out the
impossibility of exercising in this country any governmental constraint
over the press, and making very clear the offensive imputation of
insincerity on the part of the President contained in Baron Sacken’s
note. This occurrence was not known at St. Petersburg, at least it was
not known to Mr. Buchanan, while the negotiation of the commercial
treaty was pending. On the receipt of Mr. Livingston’s despatch, which
was written early in January, 1833, Mr. Buchanan had an interview with
Count Nesselrode on the subject, of which he gave the following account
to the Secretary of State:

                                                February 26th, 1833.

On yesterday at 2 o’clock, P. M., I had a conference with the count. I
inquired if he had yet received from Washington the answer of Mr.
Livingston to Baron Sacken’s note of the 14th of October last; to which
he replied in the affirmative. After expressing my regret that anything
unpleasant should have occurred at Washington in the intercourse between
the two governments, whilst everything here had been proceeding so
harmoniously, I observed:

That Baron Sacken himself, in his note to Mr. Brent, had admitted that
the President, throughout the whole course of his administration, had
constantly expressed a desire to be on friendly terms with Russia. But
the President’s feelings had not been confined to mere official
declarations to the Russian government; they had been expressed, in
strong terms, before the world in each of his annual messages to
Congress, previous to the date of Baron Sacken’s note. Besides they had
been always manifested by his conduct.

The baron [I said], with a full knowledge of these facts, had addressed
this note to Mr. Brent, which was not only offensive in its general
tone, but more especially so in imputing a want of sincerity to the
President, and in effect charging him with tacitly encouraging the abuse
of the emperor by the American newspapers, whilst he was professing
friendship towards the Russian government. Such a charge was well
calculated to make a strong impression upon General Jackson, a man who,
during his whole life, had been distinguished for sincerity and
frankness. When, after Mr. Clay’s departure, I had perused this note,
with which his excellency had been good enough to furnish me, I was
convinced the President could not pass it over in silence; and I had
since been astonished not to have received, until very recently, any
communication on the subject.

I had now discovered that the reason of this delay was an anxious desire
on the part of the President to avoid everything unpleasant in the
intercourse between the two countries; and had formed an expectation
that Baron Sacken himself, after reflection, would have rendered it
unnecessary to bring the subject before the imperial government. In this
hope the President had been disappointed. Nearly two months had
transpired before Mr. Livingston answered his note. In the meantime, a
fair opportunity was afforded him to withdraw it, and a verbal
intimation given that this would be more agreeable to the President than
to take the only notice of it which he could take with propriety. Mr.
Livingston had supposed that, under the circumstances, the baron would
have felt it to be his duty to visit Washington, where, at a verbal
conference, the affair might have been satisfactorily adjusted. In this
opinion he found he was mistaken. At length, on the 4th December, he
addressed the baron this answer, which places in a striking light the
most offensive part of his note, the charge of insincerity. Even in it,
however, the President’s feelings of amity for Russia and respect for
the emperor are reiterated.

After this answer, Mr. Livingston waited nearly another month, confident
that a disavowal of any offensive intention would, at least, have been
made. This not having been done, he has sent me instructions, under date
of the 3d January last, to bring the subject under the notice of the
imperial government; and it is for that purpose I have solicited the
present interview.

The count expressed his regret that any misunderstanding should have
occurred between Baron Sacken and Mr. Livingston; it was evident the
former never could have intended anything offensive to the President, as
he had taken the precaution of submitting his note of the 14th of
October to Mr. Livingston in New York before it was transmitted to the
Department, who not only made no objection to it at the time, but
informed him it should be answered in a few days. The count then asked
if Mr. Livingston had not communicated this circumstance to me in his
despatches. I replied in the negative, and from my manner intimated some
doubt as to its existence; when he took up the despatch of Baron Sacken
and read to me, in French, a statement of this fact. He said, if Mr.
Livingston had at that time objected to any part of the note, the baron
would have immediately changed its phraseology. I replied that the
President at least had certainly never seen the note previous to its
receipt at the Department; and it appeared to me manifestly to contain
an imputation on his sincerity, and was besides offensive in its general
character. He did not attempt to justify its language, but repeated that
he thought Baron Sacken never could have intended to write anything
offensive to the President. If he had, it would have been done in
violation of his instructions. That the feelings of the emperor as well
as his own were of the most friendly nature towards the Government of
the United States, and that, in particular, both the emperor and himself
entertained the highest respect and esteem for the character of the
President. That neither of them would ever think of sanctioning the
imputation of insincerity or anything that was dishonorable to General
Jackson, and he was very sorry Baron Sacken had written a note the
effect of which was to wound his feelings.

As the count did not still seem to be altogether satisfied that the note
attributed insincerity to the professions of the President, I then took
it up and pointed out in as clear and striking a manner as I could, the
most offensive passages which it contained. After I had done, he
repeated in substance what he had said before, but without any
qualification whatever, expressing both his own sorrow and that of the
emperor, that Baron Sacken should have written a note calculated to
wound the feelings of General Jackson, or to give him any cause of
offence. He added, that the baron either already had left, or would soon
leave the United States; and he had no doubt, that soon after the
arrival of the treaty and of Baron Krudener at Washington, all matters
would be explained to the satisfaction of the President; by whom, he
trusted, this unpleasant occurrence would be entirely forgotten.

With this explanation, I expressed myself perfectly satisfied, and
assured him I should have great pleasure in communicating it to the

He then observed that, judging from the despatch of Baron Sacken, this
unfortunate business seemed to have been a succession of mistakes. That
Mr. Livingston, through Mr. Kremer, had pointed out to the baron the
exceptional parts of his note; but whilst he was engaged in correcting
them, and before sufficient time for this purpose had been afforded, he
had received Mr. Livingston’s note of the 4th of December.

In the course of the interview, the count read me several detached
paragraphs from Baron Sacken’s despatch, and from their character I
received the impression that he had become alarmed at the consequences
of his own conduct, and was endeavoring to justify it in the best manner
he could.

We afterwards had some conversation respecting the publications in our
newspapers, in which allusion was made to the explanations I had given
him on this subject in December. He stated distinctly that they were now
fully aware of the difficulties which would attend any attempt to
interfere with the press under our form of Government.

In obedience to your instructions, I now read to him the greater part of
Despatch No. 5, and explained the nature of the only connection which
our Government has with the official paper. After having done so, I
asked him to consider the consequences of an unsuccessful attempt on the
part of the administration at Washington to control the _Globe_; and
told him that in that event, the editor, by publishing it to the world,
would make both the emperor and the President subjects of abuse
throughout the Union. The press was essentially free in our country.
Even the Congress of the United States had no power to pass any law for
the punishment of a libel on the President. This subject was exclusively
under the jurisdiction of the several States.

That, it was true, editors were often influenced by the counsel of those
whom they respected, therefore I had communicated his request to General
Jackson, that he would advise the editor of the _Globe_ to desist
hereafter from offensive publications against Russia, but even this
would be a delicate matter to proceed from a person holding the office
of President of the United States. I then informed him that I had been
much pleased, some weeks since, to observe in the St. Petersburg
_Journal_ an official contradiction of some of the acts attributed to
the Russian government of Poland; that I had sent the paper which
contained it to the Department of State, and had no doubt it would be
extensively published in the United States. He expressed great
satisfaction that I had taken the trouble, and said it would be very
agreeable to them to have this contradiction circulated throughout our

It is scarcely worth repeating that he objected, in a good-natured
manner, to the designation of Baron Sacken’s note in the despatch as “a
formal note,” observing that a formal note always commenced with “the
undersigned,” and not the first person. This was intended to be an
informal note, and that was the reason it had been submitted to Mr.
Livingston before it was transmitted to the Department of State.

I congratulate you that this unpleasant affair has had such an
auspicious termination. We shall, I think, hear no more complaints from
this quarter, on the subject of publications in the American newspapers,
especially if the editor of the _Globe_ should be a little more
circumspect in his course hereafter.

In regard to the subject of Polish affairs, the treatment of which by
the _Globe_ was the occasion of Baron Sacken’s imprudent note, it will
be seen hereafter that the emperor was peculiarly sensitive to the
comments of the foreign press. Mr. Buchanan, who had the best
opportunity for observation while he was in St. Petersburg, formed the
opinion that the personal attacks upon the emperor, on account of the
conduct of his government towards the Poles, with which the English,
French, and American journals abounded, were to a certain extent unjust;
that the inveterate national hatreds with which the Russian and Polish
races regarded each other, were at the bottom of most of the
difficulties with which the emperor had to contend; and that the fact
that Russian officers were intrusted with power in Poland over a race
whom they hated and by whom they were hated in turn, inevitably led to
many of the cruelties and oppressions with which the world outside of
Russia resounded, and which were charged upon the emperor personally, as
if he had designed them. Buchanan did not palliate or excuse the conduct
of the Russian government towards the Poles; nor does he seem on any
occasion, when it was proper for him to refer to it, to have allowed any
one to suppose that he defended it. But in writing to his own Government
or to his friends at home, he did not hesitate to say that he thought
many of the causes which produced the oppression that so roused the
indignation of the world, lay deep in the national hatred between the
two races, and were not to be imputed to an arbitrary and cruel temper
in the emperor.

He looked upon the despotism which he saw with the calm eye of an
observer who could comprehend its character and trace its operations,
without doing injustice to the reigning monarch. He saw a vast nation
entirely incapable of any thing like constitutional liberty, and
governed by the absolute will of one man, to obey whom was at once a
point of religion, loyalty and patriotism. Between the nobility and the
throne, there was no middle class, capable of thinking or acting upon
any political subject; and the nobility, as a rule, were capable and
desirous of no other political training, ideas or aspirations than such
as would fit them for the part of useful servants of an emperor whom
they adored, and of a system which constituted their country the most
peculiar and the least free of any in Europe. The statesmen who were
formed under such a system were, as might naturally be expected,
accomplished in many ways, subtle and often powerful reasoners; and they
were not seldom among the ablest men of the age. When they were made to
understand how completely, as Mr. Buchanan said, they and we were
“political antipodes,” they found no difficulty in yielding to the
necessity of respecting a state of things in America which was so unlike
any thing that they knew at home. At first, Count Nesselrode could not
understand how a government could have an official organ, and yet
disclaim responsibility to a foreign power for what that organ said in
its editorial columns. But when it was explained to him that the
American Government did disclaim that responsibility, and was obliged to
do so by the nature of its political institutions, he did not make it
his business to argue the point, but gracefully accepted the explanation
and put an end to the whole of the misunderstanding.

It must be confessed, however, that while Mr. Buchanan fully and firmly
carried out his instructions and procured all the admission that his own
Government desired, in regard to Baron Sacken’s note, it was a pretty
fine distinction that his Government had to draw. It was perfectly true
that the _Globe_ was the official gazette of the American Government,
and yet that its editorial columns could not be legally controlled by
the President. Still it might be a question whether an American
administration should have had an official organ, with which it was
connected on such terms that the editor or conductor was just as
independent of its influence or its power, as if he published a
newspaper that was not connected in any way with the Government. Both at
home and abroad, the editorial columns of the _Globe_ were liable to be
regarded as speaking the sentiments of the administration; and when it
became necessary to disclaim that they did so, the explanation, although
made upon undeniable facts, was an awkward one to make. Mr. Buchanan
certainly felt it to be so, for in writing to the Secretary of State,
after he had obtained from Count Nesselrode all the disavowal that was
desired, he said:

I have time but for few remarks upon this strange interview.

It serves to show how indispensable it is that our minister to this
country should be kept advised of every proceeding in the United States
which may affect the relations between the two nations. He has indeed a
most difficult part to perform. He must be cautious in the extreme, and
is under the habitual necessity of concealing his real sentiments. It is
utterly impossible for these people to realize the state of affairs in
the United States. We are political antipodes, and hence the great
difficulty of maintaining those friendly relations which are so
important to the interests of our country. I know not when the despatch
was received containing a copy of Baron Sacken’s note to Mr. Brent, or
what influence it might have had upon the negotiation had it reached him
[Nesselrode] at an earlier period. Of this, however, I feel confident,
that, if a copy of this note had been transmitted [to me] immediately
after its receipt, this unpleasant interview might have been avoided

I would suggest the policy of advising the editor of the _Globe_ to
abstain at least from severe editorial paragraphs respecting the emperor
of Russia. Neither the cause of Poland nor of human liberty could suffer
by his silence in a country where there are so many faithful sentinels,
and I should, _by all means_, advise the publication of a strong
editorial paragraph in the _Globe_, expressing a proper sense of the
good feelings of the emperor of Russia, evinced towards the United
States in making us an exception to his general policy by concluding the
commercial treaty. If this should be done, and more particularly if the
President should, even in the slightest manner, allude to the
circumstance in his inaugural address, it would be very grateful
personally to the feelings of the emperor.

I have felt it my duty to take measures, though they may be expensive to
the Government, of having the semi-weekly _Globe_ transmitted to me
through the post-office from London. Will you be particular in giving
directions that it shall be regularly forwarded from New York by every
packet. It is true it will be read at the post-office here; but should
it contain anything offensive, I shall know it almost as soon as this
government and before the Russian minister at Washington can have an
opportunity of transmitting any inflammatory commentaries. I assure you,
I feel the delicacy of my position; but knowing your distinguished
abilities and long experience, if I could but only attract your special
regard to this mission, I think, between us, we might, in perfect
consistency with the high and independent character of our own country,
keep his imperial majesty in a state of better feeling towards us than
almost any other nation. We have much to gain by such a course and
nothing to lose.

I requested Mr. Vail, some time ago, to send me the semi-weekly _Globe_
by mail from London. Although this may be expensive to the Government,
it cannot be avoided, and it is absolutely necessary that I should
receive it. It would seem, however, that the department has ceased
forwarding them to London. Will you be kind enough to give directions
that they shall be sent, in a separate parcel, by every Liverpool packet
from New York.


Footnote 32:

  It should be said here that the whole course of this negotiation shows
  that the details of the treaty were entrusted largely to Mr.
  Buchanan’s discretion. At that time, indeed, it was impracticable for
  an American minister in Europe, and especially at St. Petersburg, to
  be guided from day to day, or even from month to month, by the
  Secretary of State. The Atlantic had not then been crossed by steam. I
  have gone through with the minute discussions which took place between
  Mr. Buchanan and the Russian Foreign Office, but have not deemed it
  necessary to display them to my readers. They evince on his part a
  thorough acquaintance with the whole subject, and a remarkable power
  of carrying his points.

Footnote 33:

  See _post_ an account of Mr. Buchanan’s conversation with Pozzo di
  Borgo in Paris.


                              CHAPTER IX.


Mr. Buchanan, as the reader has seen, went abroad in the spring of 1832.
Events of great consequence occurred at home during his absence. The
great debate in the Senate on nullification, between Mr. Webster and
Col. Hayne, which took place in 1830, had not been followed in South
Carolina by any surrender of the doctrine maintained by the Nullifiers.
In November, 1832, the people of South Carolina, assembled in
convention, adopted their celebrated ordinance which declared the
existing tariff law of the United States null and void within her
limits, as an unconstitutional exercise of power. General Jackson who
had been re-elected President in the same month, defeating Mr. Clay and
all the other candidates by a very large majority of the electoral
votes, issued his proclamation against the Nullifiers on the 10th of
December.[34] Then followed the introduction of the “Force Bill” into
the Senate in January, 1833; a measure designed to secure the collection
of the revenue against the obstruction of the State laws of South
Carolina; Mr. Webster’s support of this measure of the administration;
and the consequent expectation of a political union between him and
General Jackson. This union, however, was prevented by an irreconcilable
difference between Mr. Webster and General Jackson and his friends on
the subject of the currency and the Bank of the United States. In 1832
the President had vetoed a bill to continue the Bank in existence. Early
in June the President left Washington on a tour to the Eastern States,
and while in Boston, during the month of June, he determined to remove
the public deposits from the Bank of the United States, and to place
them in certain selected State banks. These events and the excitements
attending them are touched upon in the private letters which Mr.
Buchanan received from his friends, not the least interesting of which
was one from General Jackson, expressing his feelings in regard to his
proclamation in a very characteristic manner. From one of these letters,
too, we may gather that steps were already taking to elect Mr. Buchanan
to the Senate of the United States.

                     [FROM A FRIEND IN WASHINGTON.]

                                    WASHINGTON CITY, August 1, 1832.


Of course you receive regular files of American papers, and I shall
therefore not be able to give you much news of a public or political

Thinking, however, you may overlook some things of importance, I shall
confine myself to them. The tariff bill, having passed in a modified
form (reducing the duties on protected, and taking them off nearly
altogether on unprotected articles, to the wants of the Government), it
was supposed the excitement in the South would be allayed, if not
entirely subdued; but this, I am sorry to say, has not been the case in
South Carolina. Messrs. Hayne, Miller, McDuffie, etc., have published an
address to the people of South Carolina, in which they state, that the
protective system has now become the settled policy of the country, and
advise an open resistance to the act. Their legislature will, I have no
doubt, recommend the same course, and before another year, I am firmly
of the opinion, _rebellion_ will be the order of the day, accompanied
with all its horrors. The moment that a drop of blood is shed by the
South, in resisting the laws, there will be a general rising of the
people, and where is the hand that will be able to stop the fearful
wrath of the sovereign people? Duff Green, in his paper of yesterday,
said: “That he will write as long as writing will be of any effect; when
that ceases, he will adopt the _sword_. If South Carolina is to be
sacrificed, the _tyrant will_ be met on the banks of the Potomac, and
many, very many, are the sons of her sister States who will rally
beneath her standard. We say to her gallant sons, go on! Yours is the
cause of _liberty_, and the eyes of all _her_ votaries are upon you!”

When language like this is held by the _leader_ of the party, at the
seat of Government of the Union, under the immediate eyes of the heads
of the nation, and suffered to pass unpunished, it is indeed time for
the people seriously to think of a civil war. The leaders in this affair
will have much to answer for, and be assured they will be _held

The bank bill has passed, by a small majority, in both Houses of
Congress, and the President (true to his principles) has returned it
(without his signature) with his objections. There appeared to be great
excitement at the time, but it was only occasioned by the brawling of
the opposition. A large meeting was got up in Philadelphia, at which a
few Jackson men of no note attended, but all would not do. The next
week, the Jackson men met to express their opinions, and they resolved
unanimously to support “Andrew Jackson, bank or no bank, veto or no
veto.” At this meeting there were between ten and fifteen thousand
people, citizens of the city and county, the largest meeting, I am told,
that ever assembled in Philadelphia within the recollection of the
oldest inhabitants.

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

 (Private.)                                  WASHINGTON, March 21, 1833.


Your letter by Mr. Clay was handed me on his arrival. The fact of there
being no means of conveyance, my not having ascertained Mr. Clay’s
determination in regard to his return to you, and the immense and heavy
pressure of public business have caused me to delay my reply.
Nullification, the corrupting influence of the Bank, the union of
Calhoun and Clay, supported by the corrupt and wicked of all parties,
engaged all my attention. The liberty of the people requires that wicked
projects, and evil combinations against the Government should be exposed
and counteracted.

I met nullification at its threshhold. My proclamation was well timed,
as it at once opened the eyes of the people to the wicked designs of the
Nullifiers, whose real motives had too long remained concealed. The
public ceased to be deluded by the promise of securing by nullification
“a peaceful and constitutional modification of the tariff.”

They investigated the subject, and saw that, although the tariff was
made the ostensible object, a separation of the confederacy was the real
purpose of its originators and supporters.

The expression of public opinion elicited by the proclamation, from
Maine to Louisiana, has so firmly repudiated the absurd doctrine of
nullification and secession, that it is not probable that we shall be
troubled with them again shortly.

The advices of to-day inform us that South Carolina has repealed her
ordinance and all the laws based upon it.[35] Thus die nullification and
secession, but leave behind the remembrance of their authors and
abettors, which holds them up to scorn and indignation, and will
transmit them to posterity as traitors to the best of governments.

The treaty is as good a one as we could expect or desire, and if you can
close the other as satisfactorily, it will be a happy result, and place
you in the highest rank of our able and fortunate diplomatists.

Mr. Clay has conversed with me freely, and has determined, under all the
circumstances, to return to you.

If Mr. Clay had not taken this determination, be well assured that your
request in respect to his successor would have received my most anxious
attention. You should have had one in whom you could with safety
confide. I had thought of Mr. Vail, now at London, who has signified his
inclination to remain abroad, as secretary of legation, when relieved by
a minister.

Mr. Clay can be left as chargé-d’affaires when your duty to your aged
mother may make it necessary for you to return to her and your country.

Knowing, as I do, that you will not leave your post until you bring to a
close the negotiation now under discussion, I have said to the Secretary
of State to grant you permission to return whenever you may ask it. But
should an emergency arise which will render it inconvenient, if not
impossible, for you to write and receive an answer from the state
department before, from the feeble health of your mother, it may be
necessary for you to return, you will consider yourself as being hereby
authorized to leave the court of Russia, and return, leaving Mr. Clay in
charge of our affairs there.

I must refer you to Mr. Clay, and the newspapers, which I have requested
the Secretary of State to send you, for the news and politics of the
day. I must, however, add, that in the late election, good old
Democratic Pennsylvania has greatly increased my debt of gratitude to
her, which I can only attempt to discharge by renewed and increasing
vigilance and exertions in so administering the Government as to
perpetuate the prosperity and happiness of the _whole_ people.

Accept of my best wishes for your health and happiness, and for your
safe return to your country and friends. Give my kind respects to Mr.
Barry, and believe me to be sincerely

                                      Your friend,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO GENERAL JACKSON.]

                                        ST. PETERSBURG, May 22, 1833


I had the pleasure of receiving, by Mr. Clay, your kind letter of the
21st March. And here allow me to tender you my grateful thanks for the
permission which you have granted me to return home. Indeed, I, for some
time, had scarcely indulged the hope that I should be allowed to leave
St. Petersburg before the next spring; this permission, therefore, was a
most agreeable surprise, and adds another to the many obligations I owe
to your kindness. I hope I may yet have an opportunity of displaying my
gratitude by my actions.

Although I shall leave St. Petersburg with pleasure, yet I shall always
gratefully remember the kindness with which I have been treated here. My
great objection to the country is the extreme jealousy and suspicion of
the government. A public minister, in order successfully to discharge
his duties and avoid giving offense, must conceal the most ennobling
sentiments of his soul. We are continually surrounded by spies, both of
high and low degree in life. You can scarcely hire a servant who is not
a secret agent of the police.

There is one mitigating circumstance in Russian despotism. In other
portions of Europe we behold nations prepared and anxious for the
enjoyment of liberty, yet compelled to groan beneath the yoke. No such
spectacle is presented in this country. The most ardent Republican,
after having resided here for one year, would be clearly convinced that
the mass of this people, composed as it is of ignorant and superstitious
barbarians, who are also slaves, is not fit for political freedom.
Besides, they are perfectly contented. The emperor seems to me to be the
very beau ideal of a sovereign for Russia, and in my opinion,
notwithstanding his conduct towards Poland, he is an abler and a better
man than any of those by whom he is surrounded. I flatter myself that a
favorable change has been effected in his feelings towards the United
States since my arrival. Indeed, at the first I was treated with great
neglect, as Mr. Clay had always been. I was glad he returned. It would
be difficult to find a more agreeable Secretary of Legation. I also
entertain a very high opinion of Mr. Vail.

I sincerely rejoice that our domestic differences seem almost to have
ended. Independently of their fatal influence at home, they had greatly
injured the character of the country abroad. The advocates of despotism
throughout Europe beheld our dissensions with delight; whilst the
friends of freedom sickened at the spectacle. God grant that the
restless spirits which have kindled the flame in South Carolina may
neither be willing nor able to promote disunion by rendering the
Southern States generally disaffected towards the best of governments.

Whilst these dissensions are ever to be deplored in themselves, they
have been most propitious for your fame. We generally find but few
extracts from American papers in the European journals; but whilst the
South Carolina question was pending, your proclamation, as well as every
material fact necessary to elucidate its history, was published on this
side of the Atlantic. I have a hundred times heard, with pride and
pleasure, the warmest commendations of your conduct, and have not met
with a single dissenting voice. I was the other day obliged to laugh
heartily at the sentiment of a Russian nobleman, which he considered the
highest commendation. He said it was a pity that such a man as you had
not been king of England instead of William the Fourth, for then Ireland
would have been kept in good order and O’Connell would long since have
been punished as he deserved.

I might have told him you were not the stuff of which kings are made,
and if you had possessed the power Ireland would have had her grievances
removed and received justice, and that then there might have been no
occasion for severity......

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

                         [FROM S. PLEASONTON.]

                                         WASHINGTON, April 2d, 1833.


I take the opportunity afforded by the return of Mr. Clay to St.
Petersburg to write to you, in the certainty that the letter will be
safely delivered.

The compromising tariff act passed at the last session has been accepted
pretty generally at the South, and has been received at the North much
better than I expected, so that the alarm and anxiety which existed on
the subject have been removed.

Much clamor, however, is yet kept up at the South, including Virginia,
on the subject of the President’s 10th December proclamation, and what
is called the enforcing bill. The proclamation in my opinion contains
the true Union doctrine, and does General Jackson great honor; and the
enforcing bill was absolutely called for by the attitude which South
Carolina had assumed. The State rights gentlemen, however, in the South,
are for denying all right to the Union, as if the two governments were
not formed by the same people and for their benefit. Absurd as these
State rights doctrines are when carried fully out, I fear they will be
pushed to an open rebellion by the Southern States before many years
shall elapse.

I was in hopes that when Mr. Livingston went to France, as he will do
probably in June next, that you would have been called to the Department
of State, but it seems a different arrangement is to be made. Mr. McLane
is to go to the Department of State, and it is said a gentleman from
Pennsylvania, who has never been spoken of for the Treasury, is to be
appointed to that department. As Dallas and Wilkins have been much
talked of for this department, I am somewhat in hopes that the person
referred to may be yourself. Be that as it may, I feel pretty confident
that you will be elected to the Senate of the United States at the next
meeting of the legislature, if you should be at home in season. They
have made two or three trials to elect a senator during the session
without effect, and from all I can learn the legislature will adjourn
without making an election, so that the election will lie over until the
next session.

Mrs. Pleasonton is now pretty well, though she has had several severe
attacks in the course of the winter. Mathilda, with her husband, left us
yesterday morning for Philadelphia. She had been ill for nearly two
months, and was not able to leave us until yesterday. Augustus is
exceedingly studious and is getting a good share of professional
business. I have great hopes of him. Laura is still in Philadelphia, but
will complete her education in the month of May. Mrs. P. intended to
have written to you but she has not had it in her power, having been
much engaged for Mathilda. I send you by Mr. Clay, copies, or rather
duplicates, of two letters written to you some time ago about your

Mr. Clay can inform you of many particulars which will interest you, but
I presume will say nothing of his friend [John] Randolph, who is now
decidedly and zealously in the opposition. He was here lately and
behaved in the most eccentric manner.

As you may not have seen all the documents communicated to Congress by
the President in relation to South Carolina, I have determined to
burthen Mr. Clay with them. They are accordingly enclosed.

With great regard, I remain, dear sir, your friend and obedient servant,

                                                      S. PLEASONTON.

                  [MR. BUCHANAN TO JOHN B. STERIGERE.]

                                       ST. PETERSBURG, May 19, 1833.


I think you are mistaken in supposing I should have been elected to the
Senate had I been at home. The opposition against me from many causes
would have been too strong. Indeed, I have an impression that my public
career is drawing near its close, and I can assure you this feeling does
not cost me a single pang. All I feel concerned about is to know what I
shall employ myself about after my return. To recommence the practice of
the law in Lancaster would not be very agreeable. If my attachments for
that place as well as my native State were not so strong, I should have
no difficulty in arriving at a conclusion. I would at once go either to
New York or Baltimore; and even if I should ever desire to rise to
political distinction, I believe I could do it sooner in the latter
place than in any part of Pennsylvania. What do you think of this
project? Say nothing about it. I have not written a word on the subject
to any other person. I see the appointment of Judge Sutherland announced
some weeks ago. Judging from the feelings displayed in the election of
printers to Congress, I should not have been astonished at his election
as Speaker by the next House of Representatives.

The winter here has been very long, but I have not at all suffered from
the cold. The great thickness of the walls of the houses, their double
windows and doors, and their stoves built of tile, render their houses
much more comfortable in very cold weather than our own. They are always
heated according to a thermometer, and preserved at an equal
temperature. Indeed, I have suffered more from the heat than the cold
during the winter. But its length has been intolerable. The Neva was
frozen for nearly six months. It broke up on the 25th ultimo; but still,
until within a few days, there is a little ice occasionally running
which comes from the Lake Ladoga.

On the 9th instant the navigation opened at Cronstadt. Four noble
American ships led the way, and with a fine breeze and under full sail
they passed through the ice and made an opening for the vessels of other
nations. The character of our masters of vessels and supercargoes stands
much higher here than that of the same class belonging to any other
nation. They have much more intelligence. This Court requires a man of
peculiar talent. There are but few of our countrymen fit to be sent here
as minister. Here the character of the country depends much upon that of
the minister. The sources of information respecting our republican
institutions which are open throughout the rest of Europe are closed in
this country. A favorable impression must be made upon the nobility by
personal intercourse, and in order that this may be done it is
absolutely necessary that the minister should occasionally entertain
them and mix freely in their society. Such is the difference between
Russian and American society, I am satisfied that Levett Harris would be
a more useful minister here than Daniel Webster. I make this remark on
the presumption that for years to come we shall have no serious business
to transact.

After looking about me here, I was much at a loss to know what course to
pursue. Without ruin to my private fortune I could not entertain as
others did. Not to entertain at all I might almost as well not have been
here except for the treaty. After some time I determined that I would
give them good dinners in a plain republican style, for their splendid
entertainments, and the plan has succeeded. I have never even put livery
on a domestic in my house;—a remarkable circumstance in this country.

I think I may say, I am a favorite here, and especially with the emperor
and empress. They have always treated me during the past winter in such
a manner as even to excite observation. I am really astonished at my own
success in this respect, for in sober truth, I say that, in my own
opinion, I possess but few of the requisites of being successful in St.
Petersburg society. I trust and hope that I may be permitted to return
to my beloved native land this fall; and if Providence should continue
to bless my endeavors, I think the character of the United States will
stand upon a fairer footing with his Imperial Majesty than it has ever
done since his accession to the throne.

                                                          _May 22d._

Mr. Randolph Clay returned here on the 19th, bringing me a great number
of letters from my friends and the President’s permission to return home
this fall. God willing! I shall be with you about the end of November.
These letters hold out flattering prospects of my election to the Senate
at the next session.

I confess I consider this event very doubtful, and shall take care not
to set my heart upon it.

Mr. Barry leaves me to-day for London, and I have no time to add
anything more. Please to write soon, and believe me ever to be your
sincere friend,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

P. S.—Remember me to Paulding, Patterson, Kittera and my other friends.
I wrote once to the latter, but have never received an answer from him.

                          [FROM LOUIS McLANE.]

 (Unofficial.)                                WASHINGTON, June 20, 1832.


It affords me sincere pleasure to devote a portion of my early labors in
this Department[36] to you, whom I have known so long, and esteemed so
highly. In one form or other you will hereafter receive more frequent
communications from me, for I have already made a regulation by which a
semi-monthly communication will be kept up from the Department with our
principal ministers abroad. This is not only due to their character, but
necessary to keep them informed of our principal domestic and foreign
relations. This regulation will be independent of such special
communications as the particular state of the missions respectively may
[render] necessary.

You have no friend in this country who participated more sincerely than
I in the success of your negotiation, and if the President needed
anything to strengthen his friendship for you, or his confidence in your
zeal and ability, your labors on that occasion would have afforded it.
He has probably told you so himself, as I understood from him that he
intended to write you.

...... The President is on a tour through the northern and eastern
cities. He will go to Portland and thence up the lakes, through New York
to Ohio and Pennsylvania, and expects to return here about the middle of
July. I accompanied him as far as New York, and thence returned to my
post. His health and spirits, notwithstanding the great fatigue to which
he was perpetually exposed, had considerably improved, and I now have
great hopes that he will derive advantage from his journey. His journey
to New York was quite a triumphal procession, and his reception
everywhere indescribably gratifying and imposing. The enthusiasm and
cordial out-pouring of the kindest feelings of the heart, with which he
was everywhere greeted, could not be exceeded, and the committees from
the East, who met him in New York, assured us that a similar reception
awaited his further progress. In Boston, both parties were emulating
each other’s exertions, and Webster, it was understood, had cut short
his tour in the West, in order to receive him.

This would be a sharp alliance, and yet it is altogether probable. On
the part of Webster’s friends, it is ardently desired and incessantly
urged; on his own part he affects to consider the President’s hostility
to the bank as the only barrier. But I consider this only the last qualm
of a frail lady, who notwithstanding, finally falls into the arms of the
seducer. In the Senate, Webster’s accession may be important, in the
country its effect will be at least doubtful; especially with the
democracy of New England. If, however, the President can identify the
power of his name and character and hold upon the affections of the
people with any individual, all opposition, however combined, must be
hopeless. It is evident to me that no man ever lived, who exerted the
same influence over the great body of the people as General Jackson; and
if he devote the remainder of his term to tranquilize the public mind,
he will go into retirement with greater fame than any other man in our
history. The bank is the only disturbing question, and that he might
overthrow, after all its iniquities, without a jar, unless by premature
changing the [deposits], he should seriously derange the business and
currency of the country. He is strongly disposed to take that step, both
from his own hostility to the institution, and from the importunate
[advice] of many of his friends. It would, in my opinion, be injudicious
and prejudicial to the community; but the probability is it will be done
either before or immediately after the commencement of the next session
of Congress.

The affairs in the South are once more tranquil, and nullification may
be said to be extinct. There are men in that quarter, however, who
seriously meditate further difficulties, and there is just reason to
apprehend that these will not be satisfied short of a Southern
convention, leading to a Southern confederacy.

The elements of popular excitement only are wanting to make their
purpose discernible to all, and the grave question has been revived for
this purpose. So far it has not been successful, though it is evidently
making some impression in one or two of the States south of the Potomac,
and you know better than I can tell you, that the spirit of revolution
is progressive, though it may be slow.

On all other points, our affairs at home are prosperous, and the
prospect gratifying; and the new lines of party will not be very
distinctly defined until toward the close of the next session of

I saw, while in Philadelphia with the President, many of your friends,
who affectionately inquired after you, and you may be satisfied that
your absence from the country has not served to weaken their attachment.

Now, my dear sir, I have taken up already too much of your time with
this uninteresting letter, and I will therefore relieve you from a
greater part of it. I will only add the wish of Mrs. McL—— to be brought
to your remembrance, and the assurance of the continued respect and
regard with which I am unaffectedly your friend and servant,

                                                       LOUIS MCLANE.

The principal object of the mission being accomplished, Mr. Buchanan
began his journey to Moscow early in June, and was absent from St.
Petersburg about a month. In making selections from his journals and
letters relating to this tour, as well as those which he kept on his
travels homeward after he finally left Russia, I shall omit descriptions
of places and countries that are now familiar to multitudes of
Americans, and shall quote only those which are of interest because they
give accounts of persons or things as they impressed him at the time,
and which are out of the beaten path of guide books as they then were or
have since become, or which relate to the public affairs of that period.

                                 _Tuesday at 8 P. M., June 4, 1833._

Left St. Petersburg and arrived at Novogorod about 12 midi on Wednesday.
Visited the church of St. Sophia, said to be founded by Wladimir in
1040. His tomb, at which they say miracles are wrought, is in it. The
paintings are numerous and barbarous. The interior has a rude
magnificence. Went into the _sanctum sanctorum_, where women are never
admitted. There they consecrate the Eucharist in the Greek Church, out
of the view of the people; unlike the Latin in this respect. The priest
afterwards carries it out on his head, to be adored by the people.

The sides of the western door are lined with bronze, from which jutted
out in bronze a number of strange and barbarous figures not unlike those
of Mexico. They must have been Christian and even Russian in their
origin, as one of them represented an Archimandrite in full dress. The
inscriptions were Sclavonian. Our guide said they were conquered from
the Swedes by St. Wladimir. The church is west of the river. It and
several other buildings are surrounded by a brick wall, with turrets,
etc., etc., about twenty-five feet high and eighteen thick and nearly a
mile in circumference, a ditch beneath.

There are also the remains of another rampart and ditch, a considerable
distance from the former. The church of St. Sophia is surrounded by a
dome and four cupolas of the character peculiar to Russia.

The former is gilt and the others plated with silver, so they say. The
celebrated monastery of St. Anthony we did not visit. There is scarcely
any appearance of ancient ruins to indicate the former greatness of
Novogorod. This arises from the nature of the materials of which it was

On Wednesday night we stayed at Zaitsova, an excellent inn.

The public houses are generally bad, beyond what an American can have
any idea of; nevertheless, a few on this road were good. This inn is
maintained in a degree by the emperor.

The peasants are jolly, good-natured fellows, who drive furiously and
seem happy. They are all rogues, nevertheless. In appearance and conduct
they are very unlike those of Petersburg.

                                                 _Saturday, June 8._

We arrived in Moscow at 10 o’clock A. M. The road is the best over which
I have ever travelled. It is macadamized in the most perfect manner, and
the traveller pays no toll. About 175 versts, or five posts, are yet
unfinished between Chotilova and Tiver. This fraction is the old road
and partly composed of sand, partly of the trunks of trees laid across,
and partly of large stones, and in some places it is very bad. The
posting is eight cents per verst for four horses and ten cents for the
post adjoining St. Petersburg and Moscow.

The horses, though mean in their appearance, travel with great speed.
They uniformly place the four abreast when travelling by post in Russia.
The post-boys always cross themselves devoutly before ascending their
seats; though they, in common with all the other Russian mousiques whom
I have ever met, will cheat you if they can.

At every post station we found a number of these—with their long beards
and their tanned sheepskins—ready to grease the carriage or perform any
other menial service. At night they lie down on the road and around the
post-houses, and sleep on the ground. Indeed Russians of the highest
class appear to know little of the comforts of a good bed.

The country presents a forlorn aspect for 150 versts from St.
Petersburg. It is both poor and flat, and the villages have a wretched
appearance. They all consist of log huts with their gables towards the
street. As you approach Waldi, the country becomes somewhat better and
more undulating, and more attention seems to have been paid to its
cultivation. It afterwards resumes its level appearance as you advance
to Moscow, but still it is much better in every respect than near St.
Petersburg. With a single exception we did not observe a nobleman’s seat
along the whole route, and this one had a mean appearance. Nothing
affords variety to the dull and monotonous scenery except the churches,
which present the only interesting objects in the landscape.

Tiver is the principal town of the government of that name. It was
finally conquered in 1483. The city is handsome and has the appearance
of prosperity. It is situated on both sides of the Volga. When I
approached this river, I could not resist the feeling of how strange it
was that I should be on its banks.

                                            _Sunday afternoon, 9th._

We went to the promenade, at three versts from the city, on the
Petersburg road.

                                             _Monday morning, 10th._

We visited Madame S—— and had some conversation with her which would
have been agreeable but for the constant interruption of a parrot which
screeched as if it had been hired for the occasion. She had accompanied
Mr. Wells of Philadelphia last year to the monastery of the Trinity. Her
son is to go with us to the Kremlin to-morrow.

The appearance of Moscow must have greatly improved since its
conflagration in 1812. It has lost, however, in a great degree, that
romantic and Asiatic appearance which it formerly presented. The
cumbrous and rude magnificence of palaces irregularly scattered among
Tartar huts, has given place to airy and regular streets in all
directions. It appears to be in a prosperous condition. That which
chiefly distinguishes it from other cities is the immense number of
churches. Their cupolas, of all colors and of all forms, rising above
the summits of the houses and glittering in the sun, are very striking
and imposing objects. In this respect no city in the world, except
Constantinople, can be compared with it. In the evening we visited the
Russian Theatre. Both the infernal regions and the Elysian fields were
well represented on the stage.


It rained all day. Dined with Madame Novaselsoff. She is one of the
three daughters of —— Orloff, the youngest brother of the three who left
no son—immensely rich—had one son, an only child, who was killed in a
duel some nine years ago. Aide-de-camp of Emperor—Ischermoff was his
antagonist. Both fell. His mother lives upon his memory. She says she is
now building two churches, one on the spot where he expired and the
other on her estate—-a monument. She has established schools, one on the
Lancasterian plan, among her peasants. I told her she ought to live for
her peasants and consider them her children. Her example also might
produce great effect. She said she had no object to live for, and when
it was the will of God, she would go cheerfully; that her affections
were fixed on another world. She had a full length likeness of her son
in her parlor, and different other portraits of him scattered about; his
drawings, etc., etc.

                                                _Wednesday morning._

We visited the Foundling Hospital, or the Imperial House of Education,
as it is called. We had a letter for Dr. Alfonskoi, the chief medical
officer attached to the institution, and he, together with Baron
Stackelberg, the superintendent, conducted us through the apartments.
This hospital is the glory of Moscow and is the most extensive
establishment of the kind in the world. It is perfectly well conducted
in all its departments.

The object of the institution is twofold. The first is limited to the
preservation of the lives of the foundlings and rearing them as peasants
of the crown, and the second extends to their education and their
freedom. The number of infants of the first description amounted to 6500
the last year. Each of these requires a separate nurse, and from the
peculiar state of society in Russia, these are provided without the
least difficulty. The peasant women throughout the province of Moscow
(and others are excluded) come daily in considerable numbers to offer
their services as nurses. Each one receives a foundling and after
remaining with it a few weeks in the hospital, she and the child are
sent to the village to which she belongs. For the maintenance of this
child, until it attains the age of twelve years, she receives five
roubles per month, or sixty per annum. Three thousand foundlings had
been received during the present year. The boys and girls thus raised
are sent upon the lands of the crown and become peasants. The former are
not exempted from serving in the army.

It was quite a novel spectacle for me to pass through the long ranges of
women, with infants in their arms, or in the cradle. Everything was
clean and in good order; though the women were anything but

I believe most of the children received are legitimate, of poor parents.
_It is called the Imperial House of Education_, not a foundling
hospital, and the former name is more applicable to it than the latter.

They borrow at 4 and lend at 5; not 5 and 6, as the Guide says.

Baron Stackelberg told Mr. G. that the institution had 7,000,000 roubles
clear after all expenses at the end of each year—_sed quere_.

The second class are very different from the first. They consist of
those foundlings for whom 150 roubles are advanced at the time they
enter the establishment. But as the institution can accommodate a
greater number than are sent to it upon these terms, the deficiency is
supplied by selections made sometimes from children of the first class,
but most generally from those of poor parents of Moscow. These all
continue in the institution until they receive their education. They are
free when they depart from it and are not liable to be drafted as
soldiers. A sufficiently accurate account of these is to be found in the
Guide. There are at present 550 boys and as many girls of this

We dined with Dr. Alfonskoi. His wife is a communicative, agreeable
woman who expresses her opinion freely upon all subjects. Whilst at
table I received the impression from her conversation that she took me
for an Englishman, notwithstanding I had been introduced to her as the
American minister. I did not consider this remarkable, from the
ignorance which prevails throughout this country concerning the United
States. On the evening of this day I had a still more decided example.
Mr. G. and myself went to pay a visit to “The Prince Ouroussoff, master
of the court of his I. M., and senator.” Whilst I was conversing with
the daughter, the princess asked Mr. G. if the United States still
belonged to England. He replied that they were independent and
constituted a separate government. She said this must have been since
1812, and when he informed her that their independence had been
recognized by England since 1783, she was much astonished. Among other
things she wished to know whether they spoke the English language in

We visited the Souchareva Bashnia. This is a lofty and extensive
building on an elevated position, in the second story of which is the
reservoir to supply the city with water. This is brought eighteen
versts. The top of the edifice affords a fine view of the city.

All the buildings of this establishment escaped the conflagration of
1812. They contain at present a population of more than 5,000, and have
a distinct police.

                                                 _Thursday Morning._

Before breakfast I visited the mineral-water establishment. It is
situated near the Moscow, about four versts above the Kremlin. There you
find waters of twenty-four different kinds prepared in imitation of
those which are most celebrated throughout Europe. I took a glass of
Carlsbad, the taste of which reminded me of that of Saratoga. Indeed the
whole scene resembled that exhibited there. There were a great number of
ladies and gentlemen walking in the promenades, drinking and talking;
but the ladies of Saratoga were not there. The water is drawn by cocks
from different vessels prepared for containing it, and placed contiguous
to each other in a row.

This establishment has been recently made by a joint stock company. The
emperor has subscribed a number of shares. In St. Petersburg they are
about to get up a similar establishment. There were to be six hundred
shares at five hundred roubles each; but three times that amount was
subscribed at once. Dr. Myer, whom I met there to-day, is now here as
agent from St. Petersburg to gain information, and observe the operation
of the establishment at Moscow.

We ascended the belfry of Ivan Vélikoi (Jean le Grand). It receives its
name from the Church of St. John, which it surmounts. From there we had
another fine view of the city. There are thirty-one bells in the belfry.
All in the Kremlin are collected in it.—Vide the Guide.

From thence we proceeded to the treasury of the Kremlin and examined its
contents. It is fully described in the Guide, with the exception of some
things which have been added since its publication.

These are chiefly the trophies of the conquest of poor unhappy Poland.
They are the two thrones—the sceptre, the globe, and the sword of the
emperor of Russia as king of Poland, which have been brought from

The portraits of all the kings of Poland are now hung up in their order
in this Russian arsenal where the treasure is kept. We saw there also
the flags which had been presented to the Polish army by the Emperor
Alexander, and also the original constitution of Poland on the floor at
his feet. It was placed there by the express command of his present

The glorious standard of Poland which waved triumphantly over many a
well fought field, but which the most exalted courage and self-devotion
could no longer maintain against brutal and barbarian force, is there
exhibited. The white eagle has been obliged to cower beneath the
double-headed monster of Russia. May it again soar! though to all human
appearance it has sunk forever.

The head of John Sobieski is one of the most noble and commanding I have
ever beheld. The famous standard which he took from the Turks at Vienna
when Poland saved Europe from the sway of the Infidel, is now in the
same hall with the portrait of the hero and the king who commanded her
army on that celebrated day. We afterwards visited the ancient and the
modern palaces. The contrast between the two exhibits the change between
ancient and modern times in striking colors. In one of the rooms of the
latter, among other ancient portraits, we saw one of the Princess
Sophia. She was an extraordinary woman, and must have had a very fine
face. I have an interest in this woman, and am willing to disbelieve the
crime which Peter the Great attributed to her, of an intention to
assassinate him. How must her proud and ambitious spirit have been
chafed by being confined to a monastery after having reigned with so
much distinction. Accompanied by Mr. Thal, we rode out of the Barrier de
Drogomirov, two or three versts on the road to Smolensko, to the summit
of the last of three hills which rise gradually above each other, from
whence we had a fine view of the city. It was from this quarter that the
French entered. Bonaparte slept the first night at Petrovski, a place
near the St. Petersburg road, about three versts from the city.

                                      _Friday Morning, June 2–14th._

I went with Mr. Gretsch, the editor of the Bee at St. Petersburg, to see
the famous monastery of Novo Devitcher where we saw the tomb of the
Princess Sophia, who took the veil under the name of Suzanna, and was
buried in 1704. For the rest, see the Guide, 183, 184. Mr. G. and myself
visited and went through the mosque. In this country, all churches must
be open. Unfortunately we arrived a little too late for the service.

John the Third, in 1473, married the Princess Sophia, the daughter of
Thomas Paléologus Porphyrogénétus, who was the brother of Constantine
Paléologus, who died in 1453, whilst seeing his capital fall under the
dominion of the Turks. By his unison with the last descendant of the
Paléologus, John the Third considered himself as the heir of their
crown, and after his marriage he substituted the eagle with two heads
for the cavalier which was then the arms of the grand principality, and
it was then that he took the title of Tsar.


This Mr. Gretsch is the editor of the _Northern Bee_ of St. Petersburg,
the principal Russian journal. He is also on a visit here for the first
time. He came up to me the other day at the Treasury and introduced
himself, since when he has been uncommonly kind. He appears to be, for I
know not what he is, a frank, open-hearted, talkative, well-informed
person, but something of a bore. He laughingly styled the sultan this
morning “our Governor General of Turkey.” I am persuaded this is now the
feeling in Russia. They believe themselves to be already the virtual
masters of Constantinople.

Mr. G. and myself afterwards went to the Mountain of Sparrows. It is on
the southwest of the city opposite or nearly so the monastery of Novo
Devitcher. From thence you have the best view of Moscow, and it is truly
a beautiful and magnificent spectacle. It was here that they commenced
the foundation of the cathedral of St. Sauveur, in consequence of a vow
of the Emperor Alexander during the French war; but it has been
discontinued, and will be erected in another part of the city. The place
was found to be too extensive and too expensive, though the vow was to
build the greatest and most magnificent church in Russia.

We next visited the garden of Niéschouchin, from whence also we had
another fine view of the city. We there saw a theatre _sub Jove_.

The opinion of Dr. Alfonskoi on the cholera is that it arises in all
cases from a defect of heat in the system, and his universal remedy,
after he came to understand the disease, was the hot, very hot bath. He
is fully convinced it was not contagious. It seized on those whose
digestive powers had been enfeebled by drunkenness or high living. I
told him of Dr. Stevens’ saline treatment, and he said, from the
development of heat, [which] the salt produced in the system, it might
have been a good remedy. The cholera, Dr. A. thinks, came from the
earth, is connected with gravity. The grip is its opposite and is
connected with electricity. This last the best evidence that the cholera
has finally disappeared. The stomach the root, as of a tree, etc.

                                                _Sunday, 16th June._

I went to the English chapel, and heard an excellent, animated,
evangelical discourse, from the Rev. Matthew Camidge, the pastor. His
text was 2 Peter 3d chapter, from —— to ——. It was on the subject of the
long suffering of God with sinners, and the repentance to which this
should naturally lead, etc., etc. The judgment-day will come by surprise
as many temporal judgments do after long suffering.

There is to be a theatrical entertainment this evening in the open air,
at the garden of Nieschouchin, and afterwards a party at Madame
Paschkoff’s. My old Presbyterian notions will prevent me from attending
either. After church I paid some visits to the Skariatines, etc.

The English chapel was consumed in the conflagration of 1812, and has
been rebuilt but a few years since. It contains no organ. They sing
well. The pastor receives about £200, the half of which comes from
England. I was struck with the solemnity of this little congregation in
a strange land. May God be with them! It was the most impressive sermon
I have heard since I left America.

                                              _Monday, 5–17th June._

We visited, in company with Mr. Gretsch, and particularly examined the
interior of the cathedrals of the Annunciation, of the Assumption, and
of St. Michael the Archangel. They are sufficiently described in the
Guide. We also visited the ancient palace of the Patriarchs, and saw
everything that was contained therein. The apartments of his holiness
were very small and simple, though the state rooms must have been
considered magnificent in Russia a century and a half ago. We there saw
the apparatus for making the holy oil, which is distributed throughout
Russia. It is only prepared once in three years. How wise it was in
Peter the Great to abolish the Patriarchate! Few men would have had the
courage to make the attempt. From the ignorance of the Russians and
their proneness to superstition, he must have continued to be as he
formerly was, the rival of the czars themselves.

From thence we went to the Alexander Institution, so called after his
majesty. Whilst the cholera raged in Moscow, many of the children of
poor noble families were deprived of their parents, and thus became
destitute orphans. To relieve their wants and furnish them with an
education, this institution was first established by the present
emperor. Being pleased with its operation, he has made it permanent. The
orphan children of poor nobles from any part of the empire are now
received there, and all their expenses defrayed. The emperor purchased
for the purposes of this institution the house and grounds of a
nobleman, Count Rasoumoffsky, for which he gave 1,200,000 roubles B. A.

The extent of these private establishments of the Russian nobility may
be judged of, from the circumstances that this house and the adjacent
buildings appertaining to it now, accommodate 250 boys and as many
girls, with all the necessary professors and domestics.

Here the former are taught the Russian, French, German and Latin
languages; geometry, geography, drawing, dancing, etc., etc., and the
latter are instructed in all these branches, except Latin and geometry,
and in the other accomplishments which more particularly belong to
females. There are three classes of each.

We heard the first class of the young ladies examined in French and
geography, and then specimens of their drawing, embroidery and other
needle-work were exhibited to us. They acquitted themselves very
creditably. They also played for us on the piano. As a compliment to
myself, they were examined on the geography of the United States. What
struck me with great force, was that the little girls in the second and
third classes recited pieces from the French and German, as well as the
Russian, with apparent facility, and so far as I could judge, with a
perfect accent.

They certainly have the most wonderful talent for acquiring languages of
any people in the world.

We afterwards went through the apartments of the boys and heard them
examined. One of the boys was asked who was the greatest man that
America had produced, and he promptly answered Washington. The thrill of
delight which I experienced at the moment, I shall not undertake to
describe. He hesitated in his answer to the second question, who was the
next, as probably many Americans would; and was then asked who was the
celebrated ambassador of the United States at Paris, to which he replied
Franklin. He first said Ptolemy Philadelphus, but corrected himself

The most imposing spectacle I witnessed here was all the girls collected
at dinner. They were all dressed alike, in green frocks and white
aprons, which came over their arms. When we entered, they were all
ranged at their different places and were standing up. Those who were
distinguished, were placed at two small tables in the centre. Previous
to taking their seats, they sang a hymn in Russian as a blessing. Their
performance was excellent. Here the goodness and piety of the female
heart shone out in a striking manner. The little girls exhibited the
warmest and most lively devotion, and frequently crossed themselves with
all that sincerity and ardor of manner which can never be counterfeited
at their age. The dinner was very good. One circumstance is worthy of
remark. Mr. Gretsch made a little address in Russian to one of the
female classes, which Mr. Guerreiro understood. He informed them that I
was the minister of the United States, a great and powerful republic.
That the people there were well educated and well informed; but that
every person had to labor. That their Government was a good one; but no
paternal emperor existed there, who would become the father of orphans
and educate them at his own expense. He concluded by impressing upon
their minds how grateful they ought to be to the emperor, and how much a
monarchical government ought, on this account, to be preferred to a

The emperor is very fond of this institution, of which he is the
founder. Indeed, in different forms and in different manners nearly all
the children of the Russian nobility of both sexes are educated in
imperial institutions, and in some degree at the expense of the
government. We visited the garden where there was a considerable number
of very little boys and girls too young for any of the classes. It is
the emperor’s delight, they say, to go among them and play with them, to
he down upon the ground and let them cover him, and to toss them about
in all directions. From all I have heard, a great fondness for children
is one of the traits of the emperor’s character. He is quick and warm in
his feelings, and at the moment of irritation would be severe: but his
passion soon subsides, and the empress receives great credit for
correcting this fault in his temper. I am more and more convinced every
day that he could have pursued no other course with safety towards the
Poles than that which he did. The bitterness against them is extreme,
and there is scarcely a monument of antiquities in the Kremlin which
does not relate to battles lost and won between the two nations. Their
mutual enmity is truly hereditary. The emperor advances two hundred
thousand roubles per annum to this institution, and has lately given it
a million of roubles, which is to accumulate for the purpose of forming
a capital for its support. The foundation of a new and extensive
building has already been laid for the better accommodation of the

The chamberlain, Tchenchine, is the principal director, and Mr. Davydoff
the chief professor, with both of whom I was much pleased, as well as
with Madame Tchenchine, the wife of the former.

From thence, accompanied by Messrs. Tchenchine and Davydoff, we visited
the Armenian institution, founded in 1806 by the Messieurs Lazareff,
wealthy Armenian noblemen, for the benefit chiefly of native Armenians,
wheresoever they may be scattered. The memoir presented to me by Mr. D.
will sufficiently explain the object of it. There you saw in the form
and in the face of the pupils the Asiatic traits. One of them, a native
of Calcutta, spoke English to me. There are several private institutions
for the education of youth at Moscow, founded by private munificence,
and whether ostentation may have been the moving cause or not, still
they are very valuable to the community. We partook here of an elegant
déjeuner-à-fourchette. There are now forty-five scholars gratis and
twenty-five who pay fifty roubles per month, in the institution, so says
Mr. Davydoff.

We dined to-day with the governor-general, Prince Galitzine, and a
select party. He is a dignified gentleman of the old school, with great
simplicity of manners, and is revered by the people high and low of the
city and province of Moscow. He speaks English tolerably well, and we
had much conversation concerning the United States. He commanded the
cavalry at the battle of Borodino, and represented it, as it has been
always represented, as a most murderous battle on both sides.

We spent the evening at Prince Ourousoff’s. I had almost forgot to
mention that in our visits to the cathedrals and the patriarchal palace
we were accompanied by Mr. Polevoy, the editor of the Moscow
_Telegraph_, at Moscow, who is engaged in writing a history of Russia,
and by another savant, Professor John Snéquireff.

The former gave me several exemplaries of Russian antiquities as a

                                                  _Tuesday Morning._

Mr. Gretsch, Mr. Guerreiro and myself set out for the Trostza monastery,
a place famous in Russian history. It is sixty-two versts north of
Moscow. We left by the barrier of Trostza. We found the road covered
with numerous parties of pilgrims on foot, going to pay their devotions
at the shrine of St. Sierge, the founder. The women were, I think,
nearly ten to one for the men. In ancient times the sovereigns of Russia
used to go on foot from Moscow to worship at this shrine; the _pious_
Catharine was, I believe, the last who performed this pilgrimage in this

The villages and churches along the road are nearly all celebrated in
Russian history. At about seven versts from the principal convent there
is a monastery for nuns dependent upon it. We found the church at this
monastery crowded with pilgrims, crossing themselves; many were on their
knees before the pictures, and the most devout touched the floor with
their foreheads. There is nothing in the Greek liturgy which sanctions
the worship of these pictures. Indeed, images are excluded. It was,
however, impossible to resist the belief that these poor creatures
considered them something more than mere pictures.

When we arrived at Trostza we found that the governor-general had sent
an officer to show me all the antiquities and curiosities of the place;
and had not Mr. Guerreiro told them in my absence that he knew it would
be disagreeable to me, I should have been received by a military guard.
I thus avoided what to me would have been unpleasant.

We were first presented to the Reverend Father Antoine, the
archimandrite or abbot of the monastery. In my life I have never beheld
a more heavenly expression of countenance. It spoke that he was at peace
with heaven and with his fellow-men, and possessed a heart overflowing
with Christian benevolence and charity. He spoke no French nor English,
and my conversation with him was through Mr. Gretsch as interpreter. He
is very intelligent and perfectly modest and unassuming in his manners.
In his appearance he is not more than thirty-five. His long beard was of
a most beautiful chestnut color, and made his appearance venerable
notwithstanding his comparative youth. I shall never forget the
impression which this man made upon me.

He showed us all the antiquities himself; and first we made a circuit on
the ancient wall. It is a mile round and at least twenty-two feet thick,
and its great glory is that the Poles have never been able to pass it.
This he communicated to us with evident satisfaction. It was in ancient
times the strongest fortification in Russia, and was perfectly
impregnable before the use of artillery. An imperial palace formerly
existed within it, not a trace of which now remains.

St. Sierge was a pious and patriotic hermit who, in the reign of Dimitri
Danshoy, retired to this spot, which was then a wilderness. Some well
authenticated facts exist which may well inspire a superstitious people
with great veneration for this spot. Among others of a recent date, when
the plague raged in Moscow during the days of the Empress Catharine,
notwithstanding the gates of the monastery were always open to the
crowds of pilgrims who then frequented the shrine, no case of plague
occurred within the walls. The same may be observed in regard to the
recent cholera.

After the circuit of the walls, we passed through the different
churches. That where the reliques of St. Sierge are deposited was much
crowded. His shrine is very rich. The church was crowded with pilgrims.

The interior of these churches resembles the others we had seen. The
iconostase is the covering ascending from the floor to the summit, which
conceals from public view the place where the sacrament is consecrated.
Upon it are uniformly painted, in several rows, holy pictures of the
Virgin and of the saints. In the ancient churches these are sufficiently
rude and barbarous, but richly ornamented.

In passing from one church to another we saw a square brick wall covered
with boards, but without any inscription, which contains the remains of
Boris Goudounoff and his family. The bodies of the father and the son
were taken by the fury of the people from the cathedral of St. Michael,
where they were deposited with those of the other czars, and were
afterwards brought to Trostza. They were formerly within the walls of a
church; but, it needing repairs, in the time of the madman Paul, he
ordered the walls which extended over these remains to be taken down,
and the limits of this church to be restricted so as to leave them
without a covering. Whilst the good archimandrite was relating this
circumstance, he was evidently much affected by the barbarity of the
action. This was done because Paul believed Goudounoff to be a usurper.

He has been charged with the crime of having caused the murder of the
true Dimitri, the last branch of the family of Rurick. But this is a
most obscure period of Russian history, and their great historian,
Karamsin, leaves the question in doubt. In all other respects he was an
excellent sovereign, and Peter the Great always spoke of him in terms of
the highest respect.

We afterwards visited the sacristy and there saw a great many splendid
sacred robes and vessels. All the sovereigns in succession of the house
of Romanoff have presented their gifts, with the exception of Peter the
Great, and there are several prior to that period. The specimens of
embroidery wrought by the Empresses Elizabeth, Anne and Catharine the
Second are very rich and magnificent. Peter the Great deprived this
monastery of all its disposable wealth for which he gave them receipts,
and Catharine took their lands and their peasants from them. But Peter
built a church there, at least so the archimandrite said, and pointed it
out to us.

The greatest curiosity in the sacristy is the miraculous crystal, or
white stone, in the body of which is clearly defined and represented in
black a monk in his black robes kneeling before a crucifix. It requires
no effort of the imagination to present this spectacle to the eye. It is
clearly and distinctly defined. I examined this stone with great care,
and certainly but with little faith, and yet I am under the impression
that the likeness of the monk and the crucifix are contained in the very
body of the crystal itself, and are not artificial...... Nature, amid
the infinite variety of her productions, has given birth to this curious
piece of workmanship. The Father Antoine, in a solemn and impressive
manner, presented each of us with a consecrated picture of St. Sierge.

The Father Antoine then accompanied us to that portion of the buildings
destined for the students of divinity, of which there are 100 at
Trostza, and the same number of monks. There we were presented to the
archimandrites; Polycarpe, rector of the ecclesiastical academy, a fat
and jolly-looking monk, who laced his tea strong with cherry brandy and
took his wine kindly; to Peter, ancient archimandrite of the Russian
mission at Peking, who has a long white beard and venerable appearance,
and read Chinese aloud for our amusement; to Neophyte, formerly
substitute of Peter at Peking; and to the monk Tsidore, librarian of the
ecclesiastical academy. Their wine and their tea were both excellent,
and we spent an hour or two very pleasantly with them. There is a room
in these apartments, the ceiling of which contains paintings of the
different exploits of Peter the Great; a tribute of his daughter, the
Empress Elizabeth. Upon taking leave, Polycarpe presented me several
treatises in Russ as a keepsake. Upon taking leave of Antoine, I
submitted to be kissed by him according to the Russian fashion, first on
the right cheek, then on the left, and then on the mouth. This was my
first regular experiment of the kind.


We dined at Mr. Cavenaugh’s with a party of English. Among others I met
Mr. Camidge there. His appearance, manners and conversation in private
society did not answer the expectations I had formed of him from his


On the 20th of June we left Moscow at eight in the evening, and arrived
at St. Petersburg on Monday, the 24th, at 2 P. M., having slept two
nights on the road. At Vouischnije Volotschok we saw the sluice
connecting the Tivortza with the Atsta. It can only be used by vessels
going towards St. Petersburg.

The following letter to one of his Pennsylvania friends was written
immediately after his return to St. Petersburg.

                   [MR. BUCHANAN TO G. LEIPER, ESQ.]

                                       ST. PETERSBURG, July 3, 1833.


It was with no ordinary pleasure that I received a letter by Mr. Clay
with your well-known superscription. You make a strong mark, and your
writing would be known among a thousand. I now have the joyful
anticipation of being ere long once more among you. A land reposing
under the calm of despotism is not the country for me. An American of
proper feelings who visits any portion of Europe, must thank his God
that his lot has been cast in the United States. For my own part, I feel
that I am a much greater Republican than ever.

I hope with the blessing of Heaven to be able to leave St. Petersburg in
perfect consistency with the interests of my country some time during
the next month. I shall then spend a few weeks in seeing other parts of
Europe, and embark for home the last of October or beginning of

I have recently returned from a short excursion to Moscow; the city
which rolled back the tide of victory upon Napoleon. St. Petersburg is a
cosmopolite city; but at Moscow you see Russia. It is a most picturesque
and beautiful city. Its numerous churches surmounted by cupolas of every
form and of every color give it a romantic and an Asiatic appearance.
Many of these are gilt, and when the rays of the sun are reflected from
them, the eye is dazzled with the richness and splendor of the
spectacle. From Moscow I made a pilgrimage to the shrine of St. Sierge,
a distance of forty miles. Going and returning I suppose we saw ten
thousand pilgrims upon the way. They were chiefly of the fair sex, and
nearly all on foot. This shrine is at the Monastery of the Trinity, a
place famous in Russian history, having been at the same time a convent,
a palace, and a fortification. Here the family of the czars have often
taken refuge. In passing round on the top of the walls with the abbot
(which is more than a mile in circumference), he told me in a tone of
triumph and national antipathy that these walls had never been taken by
the Poles; on taking leave he presented me with a consecrated picture of
St. Sierge, and from him I submitted to the operation of being kissed,
first on the right cheek, then on the left, and finally plump on the
mouth. This is the general custom of the country; but it was my first
experiment of the kind. The pious Catharine, although she seized the
peasants and the broad acres of this monastery, made a pilgrimage on
foot from Moscow to the shrine of St. Sierge. But enough of this

On Saturday last, the 29th ultimo, we had news from New York via London
up till the 1st, a wonderfully short passage. We then heard of the death
of Randolph, and of the appointment of Mr. Duane as Secretary of the
Treasury. I have no doubt the latter will make a good officer, and he
shows great courage in undertaking the Treasury at the present moment.
My best wishes attend him.

I think it more than probable that my political life is drawing to a
close, and I confess I look upon the prospect without regret. Office is
not necessary for my happiness. I can enjoy myself with the blessing of
God, under my own vine and my own fig tree. Whoever embarks on the
stormy ocean of politics must calculate to make a shipwreck of
contentment and tranquility. I have served the old hero faithfully and
zealously, and he has done more for me than I could have expected. But I
hope ere long to talk over my travels and my ups and downs along with
Edwards and yourself and a few other friends in the good old county of
Delaware. By the bye, I have a crow to pick with Edwards. I wrote to him
and he has never answered my letter.

I am obliged to write at full gallop. _Safe_ opportunities are so rare,
and when they occur, so much of my time is taken up in writing
despatches, that I have but little left for my private friends.

Remember me kindly to Edwards and his charming wife, to Dick, the
doctor, your brothers, Kane, Lescine, Judge Engle, and my other friends.
Please to present my most respectful compliments to Mrs. Leiper, and
believe me, in whatever land my lot may be cast, to be always your

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

The following brief account of one of the national fêtes is recorded
soon after his return to St. Petersburg:

           THE FETE AT PETERHOFF, SATURDAY, JULY 1–13, 1833.

The English palace was provided for the reception of the Diplomatic
Corps, where we lived with Count Daschkaw, the grand master of
ceremonies, Count Matuscervie, and some masters of the court. Everything
was provided for us in handsome style, for which, according to custom, I
paid the court servants two hundred roubles at my departure.

In the morning we went to visit the gardens upon singular vehicles on
four wheels and drawn by two splendid horses. I can describe it no
better than by imagining a double sofa with a single back, on which ten
of us could sit back to back comfortably, five on each side. The
foot-board was within about a foot of the ground.

The water-works are the chief object of attraction. The water is
conveyed in a canal for the distance of about thirty versts to the
palace of Peterhoff, which is situate at the summit and on the brink of
the second bank of the Gulf of Finland. From it there is a steep descent
of about thirty feet to the extensive plain on the southern shore of the
Gulf, which is covered by the immense garden. It is this descent which
has enabled them to present so many varieties of water-works. In the
gardens above, on a level with the palace (the English garden), the
water is tastefully distributed into several lakes, etc.

The water falls in several broad sheets over different steps immediately
in front of the palace. One range of these is gilt, and in a clear day
must present a splendid spectacle. They place candles under the shutes
of the water and thus have an illumination under the water, which did
not, however, produce the effect I expected.

There are many long walks in the gardens, I should say more than a verst
in length, at the intersection of which are little lakes, and in the
centre of them jet d’eaus.

On the sides of these walks, and all around the little lakes, were
frame-works to a considerable elevation, destined for the candles.

We rode all through these different walks. In front of one of the lakes
stands the little palace of Marly, built by Peter the Great. Everything
is preserved there just as he left it; and it was curious to observe the
progress of luxury in comparing his clothing and accommodations with
those of the imperial family in the present day. There is a carp which
has been in the lake for a century, with a collar round its neck. It,
with others, comes to the edge of the water at the sound of a bell,
every morning, to receive its breakfast.

We went over to the ball about eight in the evening, where the emperor
and empress and the rest of us polonaised, and all things were conducted
as on the 1st January, only the crowd was not so great. After supper,
about half-past eleven, the emperor, empress, Prince Albert of Prussia,
and other members of the I. F., mounted one of these vehicles. They were
followed in others by the members of the court of D. C., and thus we
slowly promenaded through all these walks, the sides of which were
covered by immense crowds of spectators. The effect of the illumination
was brilliant. The Grand Duke Michel was on horseback, and great
precautions were evidently taken, on account of the Polish conspiracy.

About half-past one we ended. The distance to Peterhoff 26 versts. Mr.
Lander and Captain Ranlett, Americans, were there in the ball room, in
dominos, etc., etc.


                               AMERICAN LEGATION,                  }
                               ST. PETERSBURG, July 3, 1833, N. S. }


On the 28th ultimo I had an interview with Count Nesselrode on the
subject of the application which I made on the 5–17 May, in behalf of
Messrs. Shaw & Co., of Boston. The question has not yet been decided.

After the conversation upon this subject, the count informed me that
Baron Krudener, in his last despatch, had acknowledged the receipt of
the emperor’s ratification of the treaty, and on the first instant I
received a note from him communicating the intelligence that the
ratifications had been exchanged at Washington on the 11th of May. At
this interview I had hoped he would say something concerning the
proposed treaty on neutral rights, and gave the conversation such a turn
as would naturally lead to the subject.

I enquired when the emperor would leave St. Petersburg. He answered that
his majesty would not set out upon his journey into the interior until
after the commencement of August. I then replied that before his
departure, I should solicit my audience of leave, as I intended to
return to the United States during the approaching autumn.

He expressed his regret at my determination and their satisfaction with
my conduct as a minister; but made no allusion whatever, either to the
treaty or to my note of the 18–30 of May. I felt that it would not be
becoming for me again to press this subject upon his attention, and thus
we parted.

Perhaps it might have been better under the circumstances not to have
attempted a renewal of the negotiation at the present moment.

This government has, for some time, been in possession of secret
information which has given them much concern.

The impression is that it was first communicated to the emperor by Louis
Philippe. A number of Poles at Paris, driven to desperation by their
sufferings, have solemnly sworn before God, and pledged themselves to
each other, to assassinate the emperor, at any personal peril.

The first intimation which the public had of the existence of the
conspiracy was the publication on the 8–20 June, in the St. Petersburg
_Journal_, of an address presented to the emperor at Helsingfors, during
his late visit to Finland; the subject was again referred to in the
succeeding number of the 15–27 of the same month. I herewith transmit
you both these numbers.

From the desperation of the Poles, and their determined character, this
information has excited considerable alarm in St. Petersburg. The people
here, whilst they admire and respect the emperor as the author of their
security and prosperity, look with fearful apprehension to the future,
in the event of his assassination.

The heir apparent is yet a minor, and although he possesses a most
amiable disposition, it is believed he is deficient both in talent and
strength of character. The Grand Duke Michel, who would become regent,
is as universally disliked as the emperor is esteemed. Indeed, in such
an event, many of the foreigners in St. Petersburg, knowing the deadly
hostility felt against them by the lower orders of Russians, would
entertain serious apprehensions for their lives and their property. Such
is the miserable condition of despotism; and such is the feeling here,
at the very moment when this government, more by its superior policy
than its power, has acquired a commanding influence throughout Europe.

Still greater precautions now exist than did formerly, in regard to the
admission of strangers into the country. The emperor no longer appears
in the streets like a private citizen. It is said that he is always
surrounded by guards. But from what I have heard, he rather submits to
these regulations of his ministers than approves of them himself. He is
a bold and fearless man, and manifests no apprehension whatever. If the
Poles have determined to play the part of Scaevola, he at least will not
enact that of Porsenna.

Three of the conspirators have been seized in Russia. After all I cannot
feel that there is much danger. I send you the _Journal_ of yesterday,
containing our latest news from Constantinople.

This despatch will be carried to London by Mr. Gibson, our consul. He
has been ill for some time, and his disease is, I fear, now approaching
its crisis. He is very feeble, has a bad cough, and throws up much
blood. His physician informed him that his only hope was to leave St.
Petersburg, and that immediately. Mr. Clay will perform his duties
during his absence, and we are both happy to render all the services in
our power to so worthy a man and so good an officer.

After having written the foregoing, I had the pleasure of receiving your
Despatch No. 11, dated on the 30th April. It has been long on the
passage. By the Hamburg _Reporter_ received on the 29th ultimo, we had
New York dates, via London, up till the first of that month.

On the 19th of July, Mr. Buchanan received the melancholy news that his
mother had died in the previous May.

                     [TO REV. EDWARD Y. BUCHANAN.]

                                      ST. PETERSBURG, July 20, 1833.


I received your kind letters, of the 7th and 17th May, on yesterday
afternoon; the latter communicating the melancholy intelligence of
mother’s death.[37] The news was a severe and unexpected blow. I had
hoped, by the blessing of God, to see her once more on this side of
eternity. Indeed, this desire was one of the chief reasons which made me
so reluctant to spend another winter in Russia.

But it has been the will of the Almighty to take her to Himself, and we
must bow in humble reverence. I received at the same time a letter from
Mr. Henry, which gave me the consolatory assurance that she had died the
death of a Christian, and that her latter end was peace.

It is my present intention to leave St. Petersburg on the 7th August,
and I feel almost confident, with the blessing of Heaven, that I shall
be able with propriety, to bring all the business of my mission to a
close before that day.

My present purpose is to go by the steamboat to Lubeck, and thence by
Hamburg, Amsterdam, the Hague, and Brussels to Paris, where I shall
probably spend a fortnight. I shall then proceed to London, Edinburgh,
Glasgow, Belfast and Dublin, from which city I intend to cross over to
Liverpool, and sail for New York by the packet of the 24th October. It
is my intention, if possible, to see Romilton and Derry. I hope to reach
the United States in the beginning of December.

I have recently returned from a very agreeable excursion to Moscow; but
I must defer a description of this city, the ancient capital of the
czars, until we meet again. Whilst there, I visited the celebrated
monastery of Iwitza, at the distance of forty miles. In the estimation
of the Russians, it is a very holy place. It was anciently a strong
fortress, which contained a palace as well as a convent, and is much
connected with the history of Russia. The sovereigns formerly made
pilgrimages on foot from Moscow to the shrine of St. Sierge, at this
monastery. The Empress Catharine the Second, was the last who performed
this act of devotion. Going and returning there, I am confident we met
at the least 10,000 pilgrims on foot. They appeared to be of a low order
of people, and the great majority were females.

I have but little time before the departure of the boat, and must close.
Remember me affectionately to my sister, I don’t know her Christian
name, to the Doctor and Maria. I am glad to hear that the latter are so
comfortably situated, and hope you may all live together in Christian
peace and in prosperity. Remember me kindly to Judge and Mrs. Shippen,
Mr. and Mrs. Barlow, and believe me to be ever your affectionate

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

P. S.—I wrote to our dear mother on the 3d instant.

                      [TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.]

                                      LEGATION OF THE UNITED STATES,
                                ST. PETERSBURG, July 31, N. S. 1833.

On Friday last, the 28th instant, I had an interview with Count
Nesselrode, for the purpose of making the necessary arrangements
previous to my departure from this country.

After the usual salutations, he introduced the subject of the commercial
treaty, which is one of his favorite topics. The opposition made to it
in the imperial council, and the difficulties which he there encountered
and overcame, seem to have inspired him with a feeling of paternity
towards this treaty. After some general conversation, relating chiefly
to its favorable reception in the United States, I changed the subject,
and remarked, that in our last interview I had entirely forgotten to
mention that his explanation in regard to Baron Sacken’s note was
entirely satisfactory to the President. It might be proper to observe,
however, that Mr. Livingston differed materially from the baron in
relation to some of the facts attending this unpleasant transaction, and
it had, at first, been my intention to bring these points of difference
specially under the notice of his excellency; but after reflection, I
had determined that it was best upon the whole not to revive the
subject. He immediately replied it was wholly unnecessary; he wished the
whole subject to be buried in oblivion and there remain as if it had
never existed. He expressed his pleasure in the strongest terms that the
President was satisfied with the explanation, and then laughingly
observed that Baron Sacken and Mr. Livingston were now both _hors du
combat_: the one was no longer chargé nor the other Secretary of State.

I felt the less inclined to enter into any detail upon this subject, as
Mr. Livingston admits that Baron Sacken did show him the offensive note
at New York, and _that he did not make any objections to its style_,
though he is convinced this took place after the note had been sent to
Mr. Brent and not before, as the baron had informed Count Nesselrode.
When I returned home, I discovered that the count, before our interview,
must have had in his possession a copy of Mr. Livingston’s Despatch No.
11, giving his own explanation of the whole transaction. During my
absence, the post-office had sent me the duplicate of that despatch
which, like all the communications I have ever received through the same
channel, had been evidently opened. How it got there, I know not,
because it had been forwarded to this city by the ship Birmingham from
New York _via Charleston_.

After this subject was disposed of, I told the count that as all our
official intercourse had been of the most frank and friendly character,
I felt it to be my duty to explain to him the reasons which would induce
me to leave Russia sooner than I had at first intended. A short time
before the departure of Mr. Clay with the treaty last winter, I had
received information of my brother’s death and of the declining health
of my mother and eldest sister. These circumstances had naturally
produced a desire to return home, and had besides imposed upon me new
and urgent duties towards my family. In a private letter which I
addressed to the President by Mr. Clay, I suggested that these
considerations might induce me to ask for permission to leave St.
Petersburg sooner than I had intended; and upon his return in May last,
I had received my letter of recall with the discretionary power of
presenting it when I might think proper. The recent melancholy
intelligence of my mother’s death had increased my anxiety, and made the
reasons for my departure still more urgent.

He expressed his sorrow that I had been so unfortunate as to have lost
my mother and my brother since my arrival in St. Petersburg, and his
regret that these circumstances should have rendered my departure

I told him I had not in the beginning intended to remain longer than two
years,—I was no diplomat, and had never any desire to pursue this
career. That I should now return to private life; but in whatever
circumstances I might hereafter be placed, it would always afford me
great pleasure to exert any humble influence I might possess in
cementing the bonds of friendship which now so happily united the two

He complimented me by saying, I had shown myself to be both an able and
a successful diplomat, and he could assure me I had contributed much,
since my arrival in this country, to promote kindly feelings between the
two governments. He hoped I would carry with me agreeable souvenirs of
my residence in St. Petersburg, and that my influence at home might be
used in perpetuating the good understanding which now so happily

I had taken with me a copy of my letter of recall and of the concluding
paragraph of Despatch No. 9, and upon presenting them, I read the latter
to the count, containing an assurance of the high consideration with
which the personal character of the emperor had inspired the President,
and of the wishes he formed for his happiness and the prosperity of his
empire. To this I added that such an assurance, proceeding from the
source it did, was in itself the strongest evidence of its own

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

All things being arranged for his departure, Mr. Buchanan had his
audience of leave of the emperor on the 5th of August, of which he gave
a striking account to the Secretary of State in the following despatch
written two days afterward:


                               ST. PETERSBURG, August 7, 1833, N. S.


On Monday last, the 5th instant, I had my audience of leave of the
emperor, at the Palace of Peterhoff, twenty-six versts distant from this
city. The conduct and conversation of his majesty throughout the
interview were highly gratifying to myself; because they convinced me
that I had conciliated his favorable opinion. This ought to be, next to
the honest and independent discharge of his duty, the first object of a
minister to Russia. Without it, he can never effectually serve his

Towards the conclusion of this interview, you will perceive that the
emperor appeared to lay aside his official dignity and conversed frankly
and with great feeling upon subjects which I could never have imagined
he would introduce.

When I first entered he said: “What is the reason you are going to leave
us? I am very sorry for it. You have given us great satisfaction whilst
you have been amongst us.” After explaining to him the reason for my
departure, he expressed his sympathy for me on account of the recent
loss of my mother, and made some inquiries in relation to my family
which I need not repeat. I then observed that, at the first, I had not
intended to remain longer than two years. I was no diplomat, having
never been engaged in that service before, and it was probable I should
never again represent my country abroad. He said he liked me the better
for it. He was no diplomat himself; his policy was always frank and
open, and those who believed otherwise had greatly mistaken his

I then presented to him my letter of recall, and told him I had been
instructed to assure him on this occasion of the continued desire felt
by the President to foster the good understanding which now so happily
subsisted between the two nations; and to express the high consideration
with which his majesty’s personal character had inspired the President,
and the wishes which he cherished for his happiness and the prosperity
of his empire.

He said it was very gratifying to his feelings to receive such an
assurance from General Jackson. He had shown himself to be a man both of
integrity and firmness, and he valued his good opinion very highly. He
felt a great respect for the people of the United States. They were a
true and loyal people, and he should always endeavor to promote the most
friendly relations with our country.

I then added, to that of General Jackson, my own humble testimonial of
regard for his personal character, and the gratitude which I felt for
his uniform kindness towards myself upon all occasions when I had the
honor of meeting him. He replied that he felt much indebted to me for my
good opinion, and trusted I should never have occasion to change it. He
hoped I would remember him with kindness when I returned to my own
country. He entertained a high personal regard for myself; and it was a
source of peculiar pleasure to him, that it had fallen to my lot to
conclude the commercial treaty between the two countries. He was glad
this treaty had given satisfaction in the United States, and he believed
it would serve to strengthen the attachment between two nations who
ought always to be friends.

I observed it was one of the most agreeable occurrences of my life, to
have been instrumental in concluding this treaty. I had no doubt it
would be mutually beneficial to both countries. That wherever I was and
whatever might be my lot, I should never cease to cherish the most
ardent wishes for his happiness, and to use my humble influence in
cementing the friendship between the two nations. This had been my
constant object throughout the period of my mission. He said I had been
eminently successful, and again assured me that my conduct had given him
great satisfaction.

He then alluded, with considerable feeling, to the late debate in the
House of Commons concerning Polish affairs; he observed that he was the
representative of a great and powerful nation. This station imposed upon
him many and arduous duties. He had acted in his public character, and
upon views of public policy. But instead of considering the subject in
this light, they seemed to have been instigated by a desire to abuse him
personally. He could appeal to God and his own conscience for the purity
and correctness of his conduct; and whilst that was the case, he should
have peace within his own bosom, and would not regard the opinion of the
world. This was a delicate subject. I replied that I had read the debate
with considerable surprise. The distance at which my rank placed me from
his majesty had enabled me to know but comparatively little of his
personal character from my own observation; but judging from that
knowledge, as well as from the information I had been able to collect,
since my arrival in St. Petersburg, I entertained not a doubt he had
been treated with great injustice. Indeed, it was impossible for any
person who knew him, to believe that the representation made in that
debate could be true.

And here permit me to declare that this is my honest conviction. I yield
to no man in abhorrence for the different partitions of Poland, and in a
desire to see the independence of that brave and gallant people
re-established; but truth compels me to say that the cruelties of the
Imperial Government towards them have been greatly exaggerated. It is
even notorious here that in several instances the sons of Polish
patriots who died fighting for national independence are receiving their
education at the expense of the emperor, and are treated by him with
distinguished kindness. The exaggerated impressions which have been
spread throughout the world upon this subject arise, in a great degree,
from the want of anything like a free press in Russia. From this cause,
the representations of the injured party pass every where current,
almost without contradiction. Still, it cannot be denied that whenever
Russian officers are entrusted with power over Poles, it will most
probably be abused. This arises from the ancient and malignant personal
hatred existing between the two races.

The emperor afterwards observed that the English nation had, in his
opinion, been acting very unwisely. They had got tired of a constitution
under which they had risen to a high degree of greatness, and which had
secured them many blessings, and he feared they were now about to
prostrate their most valuable institutions. He then asked me what route
I intended to take on my return home. I told him I should pass through
Hamburg, Amsterdam, the Hague and Brussels to Paris, where I expected to
spend a few weeks. From thence I should pass over to London, and finally
embark from Liverpool for the United States. I said I had no particular
desire to visit Paris; on the contrary, I should rather spend what time
I had to spare in seeing a part of England, Scotland and Ireland; but it
would be considered strange for an American to return from Europe
without seeing Paris, the centre of so many attractions. This gave him
occasion to speak of France. He said I was quite right in my intention
to visit Paris. The French were a singular people. They were so fickle
in their character, and had such a restless desire to disturb the peace
of the world that they were always dangerous. They had tried every form
of government and could not rest satisfied with any.

French emissaries were now endeavoring every where to excite
disturbances and destroy the peace all over Europe.

I observed we had always pursued a different course in America. We were
no propagandists. Perfectly satisfied with our institutions, we left to
every other nation the task of managing their own concerns in their own
manner. This had been the uniform policy of our Government since its

He replied that he knew the character of our nation well, and repeated
they were a true and loyal people: He had the greatest confidence in
them. His own policy was the same as ours. He was no propagandist
himself. All he desired was peace. He never interfered with the concerns
of other nations when it could possibly be avoided. He desired peace
above all things for Russia. But he said it seemed as if there were at
present an evil spirit abroad throughout the world. He appeared to be
particularly the object of its malevolence. (Evidently alluding to the
Polish conspiracy.) He was in the hands of the Almighty, and would
endeavor to do his duty fearlessly and honestly in the station where
Providence had placed him, and in humble submission would leave the
event to His will. Here he was evidently affected.

He then bade me adieu, and embraced and saluted me according to the
Russian custom, a ceremony for which I was wholly unprepared, and which
I could not have anticipated. Whilst we were taking leave, he told me to
tell General Jackson to send him another minister exactly like myself.
He wished for no better.

Upon leaving his presence I was sensibly impressed with the vanity of
human greatness. The circumstances brought forcibly to memory the
closing scene of the life of the Emperor Alexander. Throughout his last
illness he refused to take medicine, and thus suffered his disease,
which was not at the first considered dangerous, to become mortal. When
Sir James Wylie, his physician, told him that unless he would submit to
medical treatment his disease must prove fatal, the Emperor Alexander
regarded him earnestly, and exclaimed in the most solemn manner, “and
why should I desire to live?” He continued to reject all remedies, and
his death was the consequence. On the truth of this anecdote you may
rely. There was no foundation for the report that he had been poisoned.

At the first, I had determined to suppress such parts of this
conversation as were evidently confidential, together with the kind
things which the emperor said to me personally; but I afterwards
concluded that it was my duty under my instructions to report the whole.
This is done, under a full conviction that it will never meet the public

I had on the same day my audience of leave of the empress, who was very
gracious, but what passed upon this occasion is not properly the subject
for a despatch.

I took leave of Count Nesselrode this morning, and presented Mr. Clay as
chargé-d’affaires. Time presses, and I shall leave him in his first
despatch to give you a particular account of this interview. It was
entirely satisfactory.

Thus has my mission terminated; and I cannot be mistaken when I say that
these people now evince a much better feeling both towards our
Government and the head of it than they did on my arrival. I have taken
great pains, upon all proper occasions, to make the character and
conduct of General Jackson known. Nothing more was necessary to make the
man who enjoys the highest rank in our country stand also the first in
their esteem.

I have not seen or heard anything of Baron Sacken since his arrival in
this city.

Within the past few days it has been known here that the emperor had
refused to receive Sir Stratford Canning as ambassador from England. As
his reasons were altogether personal, this refusal can produce no
serious difficulty between the two nations. The Russians say that Sir
Stratford, when here before, evinced a captious and jealous disposition,
which rendered him very disagreeable.

I expect to reach the United States about the last of November or
beginning of December.

                          Yours very respectfully,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.


Footnote 34:

  General Jackson at his second election received 219 electoral votes
  out of 288.

Footnote 35:

  This I believe to have been a mistake, in respect to the nullification
  ordinance. It was adopted by a State convention, and consequently
  could only be repealed by another convention. This, I believe, was not
  done; but the laws based upon this ordinance were probably repealed by
  the legislature after Mr. Clay’s compromise. See the _Life of
  Webster_, by the present writer, Vol. I, p. 156.

Footnote 36:

  Louis McLane, of Delaware, became Secretary of State in May, 1833. He
  was succeeded by John Forsyth, of Georgia, in June, 1834.

Footnote 37:

  Mrs. Buchanan died on the 14th of May, 1833, at the house of her
  daughter, Mrs. Lane, in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The letters of Mrs.
  Buchanan, of which I have seen many more than I have quoted, although
  rather formal in expression, show a mind of much cultivation, imbued
  with a fervent religious spirit, and of very decided and just
  opinions. In one of her letters to her son James, written in 1822, she
  says: “Harriet and myself, at the request of Mr. S., a clergyman, are
  engaged in reading Neale’s History of the Puritans, in which I observe
  a development of Queen Elizabeth’s character and management, not much
  to her honor; however, it appears evident, in opposition to her own
  intentions, she was made an instrument in the hands of Providence, of
  promoting the Reformation, which has certainly rendered an essential
  service to the world.” If the good lady had read Mr. Hallam’s very
  impartial account of Elizabeth’s management of the two opposite
  parties among the English Protestants, she would not have had much
  reason for changing the opinion which she formed from reading Neale,
  although it would not have been correct to say that the Queen’s course
  was in any just sense dishonorable to her. The truth probably is, that
  Elizabeth, in nearly everything that she did in regard to religion,
  was governed by motives of policy, and not by convictions or special
  inclinations. In many respects, she was not a Protestant, according to
  the Puritan standard, and in many others she was not a Catholic.


                               CHAPTER X.


Mr. Buchanan commenced his homeward journey on the 8th of August (1833).
Omitting what merely relates to places and things now well known to all
travelers, I select the following passages from his diary:

                                         _Thursday, August 8, 1833._

I left St. Petersburg. Mr. Bligh, Mr. Gevers and Mr. Clay accompanied me
as far as Cronstadt. At 6 o’clock in the afternoon we passed the guard
ship and arrived at Travemunde, on Tuesday, the 13th, between 12 and 1
o’clock in the day, after a rough and stormy passage. The boat
(Alexandra) has not sufficient steam power for her tonnage, having only
140 horse-power for more than 700 tons, and the consequence is that she
can make but little way against a head wind. The price of the passage is
250 roubles ($50), the consequence of an indiscreet monopoly which has
been granted by the emperor.

We had on board the Princess Lieven and her two youngest sons, the
Princes George and Arthur, called after the late king[38] and the Duke
of Wellington—the one about thirteen, the other nine—fine boys. Count
Matuscervie was also on board, bound for Aberdeenshire on a hunting
expedition. He is excessively fond of horse-racing, hunting and all
field sports, and seems to take much greater delight in talking of these
subjects, than those of a serious nature. The princess has in a great
degree lost that beauty which captivated the king and the Duke of W. Her
nose is now sharp and her face somewhat red; but her manners and
conversation are very fine. I consider her superior to Matuscervie as a
diplomatist.[39] I endeavored to cultivate her good graces, not by
assiduous attentions, which are often annoying, but by kind and
respectful conduct towards her whenever the opportunity occurred
unsought. I succeeded. She is a woman and possesses all the
superstitious feelings in regard to omens which distinguish the
Russians. The count and myself made a bet on the length of the voyage,
and drank the wine before its termination. This gave her much
uneasiness, and the wind became more violent immediately after. The
count wrote a complimentary certificate in the captain’s [log] book, and
it was signed before the close of the voyage. Immediately after we had
quite a storm, which continued the whole night. I should have been
alarmed myself, but thanks to the Yankee captain with whom I crossed the
Atlantic, who would carry sail in a hurricane. Captain Dietz, of the
boat, a round-faced and pleasant Dutchman, and a naturalized citizen of
the United States, attributed our bad voyage entirely to the
circumstance of having a parson aboard (The Rev. Mr. Kneill). He swore
he could show all his [log] books and prove that, since he commanded a
vessel, he had never made a single prosperous voyage with a clergyman on
board. This was added to the stock of the princess’s superstition, and I
found her uneasy at the idea of having him on board, on their passage
from Hamburg to London. I told her I considered it almost a moral
phenomenon to see such a woman believing in these presages. She said she
had not _un esprit fort_. She could not help it. She said Lady Holland
was as bad as herself in this respect. It was she [Lady Holland] who had
first informed her that it was bad luck to set out on a journey on
Friday. The princess did not believe it; but she had once tried it; her
carriage was broken, and she injured, so as not to be entirely recovered
for a year.

Lord Wellington, she said, never thought himself wrong. He was always
right, in his opinion. He had committed three great blunders whilst he
was minister.

The first was in sending Prince Polignac to govern France. The duke had
told her that this prince was the greatest man in France. Politeness
alone had prevented her from laughing in his face. He was _mediocre
parmi les mediocres_; besides, he was obstinate to the very last degree.
The second was on the Catholic emancipation question; and the third in
refusing all reform after having himself opened the door for it.

Lord Lowther had called to see her in Hamburg, and informed her that
there would have been, a few days ago, a new ministry in England, but
for the timidity of Sir Robert Peel. I told her I thought this was
prudence in Sir Robert. The Tories could not now govern England. She
concurred in opinion with me; said the duke was now near seventy, and
could not afford to wait, but that was not the case with Sir Robert. We
talked of the Polish question, etc., etc...... Met Mr. Wheaton, his wife
and daughter in Hamburg.[40]

                                     _Tuesday, at 12 o’clock (day)._

We left Cologne and arrived in Aix-la-Chapelle, a distance of nine and a
quarter German miles, through Bergheim and Juliers. The latter strongly

The king of Prussia seems to be determined to strengthen himself in this
country. Judging from what I have observed myself and heard from others,
he cannot rely upon the affections of the people. Indeed, they talk very
freely. They all refer to the days of Napoleon; and compare their
situation then with what it is at present. The old maitre d’hotel at
Bergheim, who has kept a public house for fifty years, and who seems to
be a sensible and honest-hearted old man, told me that the taxes were
not half so heavy under Napoleon as they were at present. That he was
the greatest man there had ever been in the world, and they loved the
French much better than the Prussians. Other travelers, who understand
German, have told me that at the public tables they talk of a revolution
as certain; without pretending to conjecture when it will take place.

But the king of Prussia is a wise man. He has been taught in the school
of misfortune, and has been greatly benefited by the lessons of that
stern mistress. There is great freedom of speech allowed throughout the
Prussian dominions, and in those east of the Rhine the king is popular,
notwithstanding the violation of his promise to give them a
constitution. This arises from a general conviction of his wisdom and
justice, and particularly from the equal conduct he has pursued towards
all classes of his subjects. The people are pleased with him, because
his conduct towards the nobles has given them no cause of jealousy. He
is a democratic despot, and this is perhaps the true policy of all

In the Rhenish provinces, it is difficult for the people to rebel, in
the midst of strong and almost impregnable fortifications and of troops
faithful and well disciplined.

                                _Saturday night, August 31, (1833)._

Arrived in Paris, and went to lodgings provided for me by Mr.
Harris,[41] in the Rue de Paix.


I walked to the Place Vendome, and saw the triumphal column. The statue
of Napoleon was again placed upon its summit during the anniversary of
what are called here the glorious days of the revolution of July (1830).
I also visited the garden of the Tuileries, the Champs Elysées, and the
Place of Louis XVI, between the two. Here this unfortunate monarch was

A column is to be erected in the centre, exactly resembling Cleopatra’s
Needle. There is a model of it now standing. Dined with Mr. Harris—a man
sufficiently civil and ceremonious, but a mannerist...... He has been so
long in Europe as to have lost much of his American feelings, if he ever
possessed them in a strong degree. Not unskilful as a diplomatist. He is
remembered kindly in Russia, whilst such men as Bayard and Pinkney are
forgotten. He seems to have done his duty in relation to the
confirmation of the French treaty by the chambers.


Called on the Duke of Treviso (Mortier) and General Lafayette; found
them both in the country; took a drive with Mr. Harris into the Bois de
Boulogne. He is exceedingly anxious to be appointed minister to Russia.
I also visited Notre Dame.


Visited the Louvre. Whilst there, met very unexpectedly Walter
Patterson, Esq., of the State of New York, and Mr. Stevenson and Mr.
Burns, of the same State.

Afterwards called with Mr. Harris on Count Pozzo di Borgo;[42] had an
interesting conversation with him. He thinks the French selfish, that
their courage proceeds from vanity, and that they are wholly unfit for
the enjoyment of constitutional liberty. He says they will fight well,
when seen, but are incapable of sustaining disasters. He has done
everything he could to preserve peace; but if war must come, he thinks
the French mistaken as to its result. If one were to judge merely from
the striking superiority of the Russian over the French troops in
appearance, this conclusion would seem very natural.

                                      _Saturday, Sunday and Monday._

So unwell that I could not go out. Mr. Harris made a dinner party of
Americans for me on Saturday, which, much to my regret, I could not
attend. General Lafayette called and sat nearly an hour with me before
he went to this dinner; but I was in great pain the whole time.

Judging from what I have heard from the General, Major Poussin and
others, I have no doubt the Republican party are making rapid advances
in France. This is not confined to the lower orders, but extends to the
highest circles. From all I can observe and learn, they are wholly
unprepared for republican institutions. They want political virtue as
much as any people. They are very selfish, destitute in a great degree
of religion, and are always discontented with the present because they
hope something from change. Political virtue, with the exception of
Lafayette and a few others, don’t exist among them.

The policy of the latter [Lafayette] is that France shall now school
herself preparatory to republican institutions, for fifteen or twenty
years. But I think he is afraid the change will take place sooner. He
has lost much of his popularity in France, because they believe him to
be an imbecile, and because he will not lead the Republican party to
immediate action. He has lost all confidence in Louis Philippe, who, in
my opinion, is as desirous of being a Legitimate as the Emperor

In case of general republican commotions in France, a continental war
becomes inevitable. The three great powers of Europe are preparing for
it, and if one were to judge from the appearance of the Russian and
Prussian soldiers compared with the French, he would be tempted to doubt
the result. There is an energy in liberty, however, and there will
probably be such an aid to its cause among the oppressed of Germany,
Poland and other nations, that we may cherish the hope that France will
not be overrun. I do not consider the French either safe or good
apostles of liberty. I sincerely hope I am mistaken. Everything here is
now Bonaparte; and at present they appear to live upon the memory of
their greatness under him.

I ought always to remember with gratitude the kindness of Mr. Emlen,
Doctor Fisher and Mr. Patterson[43] during my three days’ sickness. Hope
to be out to-morrow again.

                                                   _Thursday, 12th._

Thank God! a fine day. Visited the Duc de Broglie, in company with Mr.
Harris. Conversation concerning the omission of the French Chamber to
ratify the treaty.

I told him that, however the government here might be able to satisfy
that at Washington, and understand each other on the subject, their
explanations could not reach the people of the United States. I had no
doubt the transaction would give rise to much unpleasant feeling among
our people, and might lead to an unhappy state of feeling between the
two countries. That I should not be astonished if this were to manifest
itself on the meeting of Congress. He said that he was very sorry, Mr.
Harris could appreciate his exertions; he was happy to say that the
feeling in favor of the treaty was growing; the advantages of the
commerce were becoming more manifest, and he had no doubt that one of
the first acts which the Chamber would perform after its meeting, would
be to ratify it. He hoped it would come so soon that Congress would
receive the news before there was any expression of feeling. [He]
Criminated Mr. Dupin in relation to it—said he only called for the
papers because he knew that all the reports of previous commissions had
been against the treaty. He said, although not a member of the
administration which made it, he approved it and would now make such a

                                                   _September 13th._

I dined to-day with Count Pozzo di Borgo. Before dinner he took Mr.
Harris and myself into a room apart from the rest of the company, and
told me he wished to communicate to me, so that I might inform the
President, on my return, what was the true condition of Europe at the
present moment. He said there did not exist at the present any immediate
apprehension of war; though from the state of things there was no
telling at what time war might take place.

Everything was unsettled in France; they were a turbulent and restless
people, and busily employed with their propaganda. They were wholly
unfit for liberal institutions; and, in fact, these were not what they
wanted. They wished again for the glory of the times of Bonaparte. He
could himself, in a month, raise an insurrection in France; but what the
allied powers wanted was peace, and peace they would maintain so long as
they could consistently with propriety. That this they did not wish from
fear of the result. Far from it. They, to wit, Russia, Prussia and
Austria, were indissolubly united, and war with one would be war with

Those three powers, with the German Confederation, could, in three
months, bring an army of 600,000 men into the field, 500,000 infantry
and 100,000 cavalry, and have an army of reserve of the same number. The
French journals were continually attacking them without cause, for
interfering with foreign states, but I understood him to say that
Austria would interfere in Piedmont, and if the French should attempt to
prevent it, the allies would make common cause against them. They
disliked and distrusted France very much; England not so much. If the
latter would act a prudent and proper part, she might have great
influence on the affairs of Europe; but the English ministry were fools.
They were encouraging France, and yet it was almost certain they would
not fire a gun in defence of the latter. England depended upon her
commerce, and she could not afford to lose that of the whole continent
of Europe, which she would do in the event of war. She had acted very
foolishly in giving Belgium to France.

What he wished me especially to tell the President was that he hoped the
United States in the event of a war would cause their neutrality to be
respected, and would not suffer the existence of illegal blockades. That
in the event of war, England would have every interest to cripple
American commerce; for, in that event, the commerce of the world would
fall into the hands of Americans. That the English must even use their
vessels to carry articles essentially necessary to them from the north
of Europe.

I promised I would communicate all he had said to the President, and
observed that when we were comparatively feeble, we had gone to war for
the purpose of maintaining our neutral rights upon the ocean; and that
at this time of day, when we were much more powerful, neither the
President nor people of the United States would suffer them to be
violated with impunity. Our policy was peaceful; we never interfered
with the political concerns of other nations. The strictest neutrality
we should observe both from principle and from policy. This had been the
course of our Government ever since the celebrated proclamation of
neutrality of General Washington, which I explained to him. I was not
now afraid that England would, as she had done before, attempt to
violate the neutral rights of a nation which in six months could put to
sea fifty ships of the line and heavy frigates. He expressed some
admiration and astonishment at this statement, which was confirmed by
Mr. Harris, and observed he could not believe that they would.

The conversation then turned upon the French treaty. He said he had been
speaking several times to Broglie, as he called him, upon the subject.
He had done what he could for us. Broglie was well disposed, and he
thought with the assistance of Lafayette and his friends, it would be
ratified very early in the next session. I told him I had understood
that Mr. Dupin, the President of the Chamber, was rather opposed to us.
He said that Dupin was an unprincipled man, I think he said a rascal,
very selfish, and fond of money. He was now receiving a pension of 200
or 300 pounds. I did not understand exactly from whom.

After we went to table, we had much conversation in nearly the same
strain. He told me he wished I could be present at two or three sittings
of the Chamber. They were like cats, all in a passion, and all making a
noise, and afterwards laughing; wholly unfit for liberty. They wanted
such a man as Bonaparte and glory again, not liberty.

Before we went to table I asked him what he thought of Louis Philippe,
and whether the allied sovereigns had confidence in his character. He
answered equivocally. Said Louis Philippe might be well disposed; but he
might be controlled by the factions, and made to do what he did not
approve. His government wanted strength.

At table, in speaking of the emperor [Nicholas], I said I had taken
occasion, since my arrival in France, to speak of the personal character
of the emperor to some persons, as I thought it deserved. He replied as
if I had mentioned the name of Lafayette, which I did not, and asked
what Lafayette had thought of that. I said that General Lafayette was
aware of the good personal character of the emperor, and that of the
empress, and the happy influence of their example on the Russian
nobility, and had freely admitted it. He said that the general had lost
his influence with Louis Philippe, and in a great degree in France. I
observed that whatever opinion others might express concerning him, I
considered it the duty of every American to speak with gratitude of him.
Mr. Harris here shook his head at me, but I continued to talk about him,
and the donation we had made him. The count said it was all spent, and I
replied I was very sorry for it. Various subjects were talked over, and
the count took leave of me in the kindest and most affectionate manner.
He was glad to have an opportunity of communicating this information to
a gentleman of my character, who had been sent on a special mission to
Russia, and acquitted himself in such a manner as I had done. General
Jackson might probably have never heard of him; but he had often [heard]
of the general, and respected his character very highly. I told him his
name was known throughout the political world. General Jackson would be
proud of his good opinion, which I should not fail to communicate.

I forgot to mention that, at the proper place, I introduced the subject
of the treaty concerning maritime rights, and said one object of my
mission was to make a treaty which should assert these rights as between
the two nations. He replied that he presumed it had been explained to me
that the reason why Russia did not accede to this treaty at the present
moment was the delicate relations between them and England. Such a
treaty at this time would set England in a flame. Russia was but a
second-rate naval power. She agreed, however, entirely with the
principles concerning maritime rights maintained by us, and at the
proper time would assert them in the same manner as if she had entered
into the treaty. In the course of the conversation, he observed that the
influence of Russia was firmly established in Constantinople. Yes, I
observed, she had been acting whilst the other powers were talking. I
asked the true character of the sultan, and he spoke of him as rather a
wavering and weak man, etc.

Mr. Buchanan, after visiting the interesting old city of Rouen, embarked
at Havre for Southampton, and arrived at Thompson’s Hotel in Cavendish
Square, London, on the 18th of September. A dinner at Prince Lieven’s
and another at Lord Palmerston’s are the only things worthy of note that
I find in his journal kept during this visit.

                                             _Monday, September 23._

Dined at Prince Lieven’s.

The company were the Prince and Princess, Prince Talleyrand and the
Duchess de Dino[45], Prince Esterhazy, Baron Wessenberg, Lord
Palmerston, Baron Bülow, Mr. Dedal, Mr. Vail, the Earl and Countess of
Sefton, Mr. Lomonosoff and myself—fourteen. The whole London conference
there. A dinner given to Prince Talleyrand, who left London the next day
for Paris.

They were all very civil and kind to me, particularly Princess Lieven,
Lord Palmerston and Prince Esterhazy. After dinner, I was introduced to
Prince Talleyrand by Lord Palmerston, at the solicitation of the latter.
He at once asked me, in French, if I could speak French. I told him not
well, but I could understand it. He then asked some questions about
America, and inquired particularly for the family of General Hamilton,
and about the descendants of General Schuyler. He said that when he was
minister for Foreign Affairs, Colonel Burr came to Paris and sent his
card to him. He returned the card, with a message that he had the
portrait of General Hamilton hanging up in his parlor.

They told me, before I made his acquaintance, that though eighty-three,
by his own acknowledgment, his mind was as active as ever. This I doubt.
He has the appearance of a very old man, though not very thin, like the
French. At dinner he spoke very little, though he ate with a good
appetite. They say he eats but one meal a day. After dinner he was a
little more sprightly. He accepted an invitation to dine again with the
Prince and Princess on the 8th December, at half-past seven, with
pleasantry. Baron Bülow told me the next day that his ability and skill
in the conference were wonderful. He would lie down and say nothing
whilst all the rest were talking, but when they got tired and into
confusion, he would come out with great power, and restore all things to
their proper order.

Lord Palmerston did not arrive at the dinner till after we had sat down,
about eight o’clock. They say he is never punctual. He is an agreeable
and open-hearted man to appearance. I had much conversation with him on
three occasions, particularly after his own dinner, and he must be a
great hypocrite if not in favor of promoting the most friendly relations
between England and the United States. Prince Esterhazy on this day
expressed his admiration of the President, and his warm friendship
towards the American people, and said this was the feeling of Prince
Metternich. He had recommended to the emperor to open diplomatic
relations with us, which the latter had acceded to, and a minister would
soon be sent. He spoke of his own country, Hungary, with great devotion,
and said he never would have been a diplomat but for the friendship of
the late king (George IV.). He pressed me several times to give
Americans letters of introduction to him.

                                                      _Tuesday, 24._

Dined at Lord Palmerston’s.

Lord Palmerston’s dinner consisted of his Lordship, Princes Esterhazy
and Lieven, Barons Bülow, Wessenberg and Ompteda, Mr. Backhouse, Mr.
Vail, Mr. Bacourt, Sir George Shea, Mr. Sullivan, Mr. Sullivan, Jr. and

I sat next Baron Bülow at table. He talked freely of the conduct of the
King of Holland. Blamed his obstinacy and perverseness. Said he might
yet bring ruin on his own head. The Dutch were an excellent people. He
had deceived them, induced them to believe that all he wanted was the
separation of Holland from Belgium upon fair terms, when he was only
keeping the question open in the hope that he might get Belgium under
his dominion again, which the Dutch did not wish. When they discovered
they had been deceived, he did not know what might be the consequence.
He said he could not anticipate when the conference would end. The King
of Holland could have got better terms formerly than it was possible for
him now. He told me _significantly_ that the King of Prussia would not
meet the emperors of Russia and Austria in conference. The whole
conversation coming from the Prussian minister to the conference
astonished me.

Mr. Bates[46] told me the English were fifty years behind the Americans
in commercial enterprise and shipbuilding. He was examined before a
committee of the House of Commons. When questioned upon this subject, he
said he had been kindly received and treated in England, and did not
like to answer the question and have his answers published. They then
told him to give his opinion, and it should not be taken down.

He told them the reason of the superiority was in the character of
masters and sailors. They were educated, had a sense of character and
responsibility, entirely different from the same classes in England.
Masters were respectable men, and sailors were now shipped from a
reading-room in Boston.

He expressed his opinion to me that the Americans would, before long,
carry on the chief trade between England and China. Everything favored
them. The destruction of the East India Company’s charter and of the
West India merchants, etc.

[He speaks of] The astonishment of the shipbuilder, when he gave the
dimensions of a vessel to him, and his astonishment afterwards at being
shown the American vessel which was his model, etc.


Footnote 38:

  George IV.

Footnote 39:

  This remarkable woman is regularly chronicled in Encyclopedias and
  Biographical Dictionaries as a Russian diplomatist. She certainly
  fulfilled that character in an extraordinary manner for a period of
  about forty years. When Mr. Buchanan met her, on his passage down the
  Baltic, she was on her way to join her husband in London. She was then
  forty-nine. The children referred to both died in 1835. The princess
  died at Paris, January 25, 1857, at the age of 73. She is said to have
  been a Protestant. In her later years she was a very intimate friend
  of M. Guizot, who was present at her death-bed. See further mention of
  her, _post_.

Footnote 40:

  Henry Wheaton, the learned author of “Elements of International Law,”
  long in the diplomatic service of the United States.

Footnote 41:

  At that time American chargé d’affaires in Paris.

Footnote 42:

  Carlo Andrea Pozzo di Borgo was a native of Corsica, born at Ajaccio,
  in 1764. His efforts, along with those of Paoli, to accomplish the
  liberation of Corsica from the French power, and place it under the
  protection of England, produced in him a decided leaning against
  France through his whole career. In 1803 he entered the diplomatic
  service of Russia, in which he continued for the remainder of his long
  life, under both the emperors Alexander I and Nicholas I. He was
  Russian ambassador at Paris from 1815 to the time of his death, with
  temporary absences in London on special missions. He died in 1845. At
  the period of Mr. Buchanan’s visit to Paris, di Borgo was seventy
  years old, with as full and varied a diplomatic experience as any man
  of his time. He was celebrated for the brilliancy of his conversation
  in the French language. In the private journal of the late Mr. George
  Ticknor, written at Paris in ——, I find the following passage: “I do
  not know how a foreigner has acquired the French genius so completely
  as to shine in that kind of conversation from which foreigners are
  supposed to be excluded, but certainly I have seen nobody yet who has
  the genuine French wit, with its peculiar grace and fluency, so
  completely in his power, as M. Pozzo di Borgo.” In a note to this
  passage Mr. Ticknor adds: “I have learned since that he is a Corsican,
  and by a singular concurrence of circumstances, was born in the same
  town with Bonaparte, and of a family which is in an hereditary
  opposition to that of the emperor.” It was no doubt with singular
  zest, that di Borgo, in 1814–15, took part in the great European
  settlement which dethroned Bonaparte.

Footnote 43:

  American friends.

Footnote 44:

  See _post_, in relation to this collision between France and the
  United States.

Footnote 45:

  The wife of Prince Talleyrand’s nephew, the Duc de Dino.

Footnote 46:

  Joshua Bates, Esq., long the American partner of the house of Baring
  Brothers & Co., and for many years its head.


                              CHAPTER XI.


Mr. Buchanan was greeted on his arrival at his home in Lancaster by the
following letter from General Jackson:

                   [GENERAL JACKSON TO MR. BUCHANAN.]

                                          WASHINGTON, Nov. 18, 1833.


I have received your note by Mr. John Van Buren, and am delighted to
hear that you have reached your country in good health, after so long an
absence in her service. I anticipate much pleasure from the personal
interview, which you have promised me I shall have in the course of this
week, but do not desire to hasten you more than your convenience, or the
wishes of your friends will permit. I leave until then all else that I
would say, except my congratulation on your safe arrival, which I beg
you to accept with my best wishes for your health and happiness.

                  Very sincerely and respectfully,

                                                     ANDREW JACKSON.

The winter of 1833–34 appears to have been passed in private occupations
which have left no traces. But in the latter part of the summer of 1834,
Mr. Buchanan was appointed one of the commissioners on the part of the
State of Pennsylvania, to arrange with commissioners of the State of New
Jersey, concerning the use of the waters of the Delaware. It was not
entirely convenient for him to accept this appointment; but as it was to
be a public service without any pecuniary compensation, he felt that he
had no alternative. How long he was occupied about it, I have not
discovered. In the following December, the election of a Senator of the
United States, to succeed Mr. Wilkins, who had been appointed minister
to Russia, was to be made by the Legislature of Pennsylvania. Mr.
Buchanan was chosen on the 6th of December (1834), upon the fourth
balloting; his principal competitors being Joel B. Sutherland, James
Clarke, and Amos Ellmaker. He was of course elected by the Democratic
members of the Legislature, and as a supporter of the administration of
President Jackson.[47]

The correspondence which took place between him and those who elected
him, is of interest now, chiefly because it discloses that he held to
what has been called the doctrine of instruction; that is to say, the
right of a State Legislature to direct the vote of a Senator of the
State in Congress, and the duty of the Senator to obey the direction.

                     [TO THE HON. JAMES BUCHANAN.]

                                           HARRISBURG, Dec. 8, 1834.


Ere this reaches you, doubtless you will have been notified of your
election to the Senate of the United States, by the Legislative body of
this State to which we have the honor to belong. And it is with
unfeigned gratification that we individually can claim a participation
in the confidence which has on this occasion been reposed in your
talents and integrity. Nor is that gratification by any means lessened,
from the consideration that you are the personal as well as the
political friend of both our State and National Executives, who have
done so much within their respective spheres to exalt the character and
promote the interests of our State and Nation. And above all, who, in
their official relations, so nobly stood forth in the rescue of our
common country from the grasp of a corrupt moneyed monopoly, as reckless
as it was aristocratical, and as merciless as it was powerful. And it is
with no less pride than pleasure that we shall look to you, in your new
and high relations, as the champion of the measures projected by our
venerable President, Andrew Jackson, and seconded by our worthy
Executive, George Wolf.

Respectfully your friends and obedient servants,

                              (Signed by)        JACOB KERN,

                                          and Seventy other Members.

The following communication, in reply, was laid before the members, at a
meeting held in the Capitol on the 7th instant, by Col. Jacob Kern,
Speaker of the Senate:


                                          WASHINGTON, Dec. 22, 1834.


I want language to express my feelings on the perusal of your kind
letter, which was delivered to me at the moment I was about to leave
Harrisburg. Elevated by your free and unsolicited suffrages to the only
public station I desire to occupy, it shall be my constant endeavor to
justify, by my conduct, the generous confidence which you have thus
reposed. The interest and the honor of Pennsylvania, so far as you have
committed them to my hands, shall never be wilfully abandoned or

Although you have not asked me for any pledge or promise relating to my
course in the Senate, yet I am sensible that many of you desire I should
express my opinion publicly in regard to the right of legislative
instruction. I shall do so with the utmost frankness. On this question I
have not, and never have had, any serious difficulties. The right
results from the very nature of our institutions. The will of the
people, when fully and fairly expressed, ought to be obeyed by all their
_political agents_. This is the very nature and essence of a
representative democracy.

Without entering into an argument upon the general question, which would
be altogether misplaced upon the present occasion, it may not be
improper to observe that the principle applies with redoubled force to
Senators in Congress. They represent the sovereign States, who are the
parties to that constitutional compact which called the federal union
into existence. In the Senate, these States are represented as distinct
communities, each entitled to the same number of votes, without regard
to their population. In that body they are all equal, as they were
before the adoption of the federal constitution. Here, emphatically, if
any where, the voice of the States ought to be heard, and ought to be
obeyed. Shall it then be said that a Senator possesses the
constitutional right to violate the express instructions of the
sovereign State which he represents, and wield the power and the vote
which have been conferred upon him for the benefit of his constituents
in a manner which they have solemnly declared to be ruinous to their
dearest interests, or dangerous to their liberties! The bare statement
of the proposition carries conviction to my mind. All, or nearly all the
State Legislatures, have long been in the practice of instructing their
Senators, and this affords the strongest evidence of the principle upon
which the custom is founded.

It has been objected, that the right of instruction may destroy the
tenure of the Senatorial office, and render it subject to all the
political fluctuations in the several States. But the Senator is only
bound to obey: he is not called upon to resign. And although there may
be circumstances in which a man of honor might feel himself constrained
to retire from the public service rather than give the vote of his State
against his own convictions, yet these cases must, from their nature, be
of rare occurrence.

Besides, this objection implies an entire want of confidence in the
State legislatures. It supposes that they may become the instruments of
faction for the purpose of harassing Senators, and compelling them to
resign. In fact, it results in the principle that the people are
incapable of managing their own concerns, and are, therefore, under the
necessity of conferring an irresponsible political power upon one of
their own number, to save them from themselves. From the nature of our
institutions, we must repose such a degree of confidence in the State
legislatures as to presume that they will not abuse the power with which
they have been intrusted.

If it should ever clearly appear, in any case, that the immediate
representatives of the people have not obeyed their will in voting
instructions, this might present an exception to the general rule. Such
an occurrence, however, though possible, is highly improbable. It is not
to be presumed that State legislatures will exercise this important
power, unless upon grave and solemn occasions, after mature deliberation
and a thorough knowledge of the public will.

I have thus expressed my opinion freely upon this important question,
though I am well aware it differs from that of some of the ablest and
best men of our country.[48]

In relation to the course which I intend to pursue in the Senate, I
shall say but little. My conduct must speak for itself. I feel sensible
that in point of ability I shall disappoint the partial expectations of
my friends. To become distinguished in that body, the ablest in the
world in proportion to its numbers, requires a stretch of intellect and
a range of political knowledge and experience, which I do not pretend to
possess. Whilst, therefore, I cannot become “the champion of the
measures projected by our venerable President,” I shall, both from
principle and inclination, give them an honest and consistent support.

Before concluding this letter, permit me to state my entire concurrence
in the sentiments you have expressed concerning “our worthy executive,
George Wolf.” In the darkest hour of pressure and of panic during the
last winter, when the internal improvements of the State were, to all
appearance, about to be arrested, he stood unmoved, and met the storm in
a manner which proved him to be the able, faithful, and fearless
representative of Pennsylvania Democracy. His message contributed much
to dispel the gloom which, for a time, seemed to have settled on our
country. It was the bright dawn of that glorious day of prosperity which
we have since enjoyed.

With sentiments of the most profound gratitude and respect, I remain

                                      Your obedient servant,

                                                     JAMES BUCHANAN.

As I am now to trace a long senatorial career, which began at a period
when the Senate of the United States contained men of the very highest
ability and renown, it is proper to give a brief account of the state of
parties and the questions of the time, and to fix Mr. Buchanan’s
position among the statesmen whom he had to meet. When he took his seat
in the Senate, on the 15th of December, 1834, General Jackson was in his
second term of office, which began on the 4th of March, 1833. He had
received a very large majority of the electoral votes—seventy-four more
than were necessary to a choice. Mr. Van Buren had become Vice-President
by a majority of electoral votes less than General Jackson’s, by the
number of thirty. He was, of course, in the chair of the Senate. In
Congress and throughout the country, the supporters of the
administration had become known as the Democratic party, the old term of
“Republicans,” and the more recent one of “Jackson men,” being generally
dropped.[49] The opposition had become classified and consolidated under
the name of the Whig party, a term substituted for that of “National
Republicans.” Their leader and candidate in the presidential election of
1832 was Mr. Clay.[50] There was a third party, known as the
“Anti-Masons,” who gave the seven electoral votes of Vermont to Mr.
Wirt, as their candidate for the Presidency, and to Amos Ellmaker of
Pennsylvania as their candidate for the Vice-Presidency.

Notwithstanding General Jackson’s great popularity and influence
throughout the country, a large majority of the Senate were opposed to
his administration and his measures. This opposition became concentrated
and intensified by the President’s removal of the public deposits from
the Bank of the United States, into certain selected State banks. A
resolution, strongly condemning this act, had been carried in the
Senate, by twenty-eight yeas against eighteen nays, on the 28th of
March, 1834, nine months before Mr. Buchanan entered the Senate. This
vote may therefore be regarded as a general index of the relative
strength of parties in that body when Mr. Buchanan became a member of
it. How this great opposition majority became so changed three years
afterward, that the friends of General Jackson were able to expunge this
resolution from the records of the Senate, will appear hereafter. The
leading Senators of the opposition at the commencement of the session,
in December, 1834, and distinctly classified as Whigs, were Mr. Clay,
Mr. Webster, Mr. Clayton of Delaware, Mr. Ewing of Ohio, and Mr.
Frelinghuysen and Mr. Southard of New Jersey.

The most important Democratic or administration Senators were, Messrs.
Wright of New York, Benton of Missouri, and Mr. King of Alabama. Calhoun
stood apart from both the political parties. He had been chosen
Vice-President in 1828 by the same party which then elected General
Jackson for the first time, and he then had the same electoral votes,
with the exception of seven of the votes of Georgia. He was consequently
in the Chair of the Senate in 1830, when the great debate took place
between Mr. Webster and Colonel Hayne on the subject of nullification.
In 1833, when the South Carolina doctrine of nullification culminated in
a threatened resistance to collection of the Federal revenue within her
borders, and made it necessary for General Jackson to issue his
celebrated proclamation, Mr. Calhoun was elected as a senator in
Congress from South Carolina, and he determined to resign the
Vice-Presidency. In December, 1832, he took his seat in the Senate. The
breach between him and the President, which was caused by the attitude
of the latter towards the “Nullifiers,” was understood to be widened by
the probability that Mr. Van Buren would be the Democratic candidate for
the Presidency, to succeed General Jackson in 1837, and by the
well-known wish of the latter that Mr. Van Buren should become his
successor. The breach between Mr. Calhoun and the President became still
farther widened, when the State of South Carolina adopted her famous
ordinance for preventing the collection of the Federal revenue within
her limits. From General Jackson’s known firmness of character and
tendency to severe measures, Mr. Calhoun found himself in some personal
danger. Then followed Mr. Clay’s interposition, by means of his
compromise tariff, which was designed to ward off an actual collision
between the federal executive and the nullifying leaders of South
Carolina. Mr. Calhoun was thus saved from personal humiliation, and
perhaps from some personal peril. But no real reconciliation took place
between him and General Jackson, and he remained in an isolated position
in the Senate, a great and powerful debater, vindicating with singular
ability, when a proper occasion offered, his peculiar views of the
nature of the Constitution, always discharging his duties as a senator
with entire purity, but never acting upon any measure as a member of
either of the political parties into which the Senate was divided.

Taking the entire composition of the Senate at that period, with the
opposing forces of the Democratic and the Whig parties, and with Mr.
Calhoun’s intermediate position, there has never been a period in the
history of that body, when there was more real power of debate
displayed, or when public measures were more thoroughly considered. If
Mr. Clay, Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Webster towered above the other senators,
there were not wanting men who may be said to have approached them in
ability; and if Mr. Clay and Mr. Webster, on the Whig side, sometimes
appeared to give to the opposition a preponderating intellectual force,
it was not always a supremacy that could be said to be undisputed by
their Democratic opponents, although they did for a long time control
the action of the Senate. The country looked on upon these great
senatorial contests with predilections which varied, of course, with the
political feelings and associations of men; but the President, his
measures and his policy, notwithstanding the power of the Senatorial
opposition, continued to grow in the popular favor, and to receive
constant proofs of the popular support. To some of the principal
questions of the time I now turn. The first in which Mr. Buchanan took
part, soon after he entered the Senate, related to the conduct of

In 1831 a convention was concluded between the United States and the
government of King Louis Philippe, by which the latter bound itself to
pay to the United States twenty-five millions of francs, for the
liquidation of certain claims of American citizens against France, and
to be distributed to the claimants by the American Government, as it
should determine. The Government of the United States, on its part,
engaged to pay to the French government one million five hundred
thousand francs, to liquidate the claims, urged by the French government
for its citizens, on the United States, and to be distributed by the
French government, as it should determine. Each party bound itself to
pay its stipulated sum in six annual instalments: those payable by the
United States to be deducted from the larger sums payable by France. The
first French instalment, $4,166,666.66, became due at the expiration of
one year next following the exchange of ratifications. The exchange of
ratifications took place February 2d, 1832, and consequently the first
French instalment became due on the 3d of February, 1833. A bill of
exchange was drawn by the Secretary of the Treasury on the French
Minister of Finance, for the amount of the instalment, and sold to the
Bank of the United States. Payment was refused at the French Treasury
when the bill was presented, for the reason that the Legislative
Chambers had made no appropriation to meet the instalment. We have seen
that when Mr. Buchanan was in Paris, in the summer of 1833 he held
conversations on this matter with the Duc de Broglie and Count Pozzo di
Borgo; from which it appears that moderate and rational persons in
France then believed that the Chambers would at the next session make
the necessary appropriation. In December, 1833, President Jackson, in
his annual message to Congress, adverted to this subject, and said that
he had despatched an envoy to the French government to attend to it, and
that he had received from that government assurances that at the next
meeting of the Chambers it would be brought forward and satisfactorily
disposed of. He added that if he should be disappointed in this hope,
the subject would be again brought before Congress, “in such manner as
the occasion might require.” The opposition in France regarded this as a
menace. The subject was brought before the Chambers several times, but
in April, 1834, the appropriation necessary to carry the treaty into
effect was refused. The king’s government then sent a national vessel to
this country, bearing the king’s assurance that the Chambers should be
called together, after the election of new members, as soon as the
charter would permit, and that the influence of the executive should be
exerted to procure the necessary appropriation, in time to be
communicated to the President before the assembling of Congress in
December, 1834. The Chambers met on the 31st of July, but this matter
was not acted upon, and they were prorogued to the 29th of December. New
assurances were given by the French government that at the ensuing
session the appropriation should be pressed. In his annual message of
December, 1834, the President made severe comments on the course of all
branches of the French government, and recommended a law authorizing
reprisals on French property, in case the appropriation should not be
made at the ensuing session of the Chambers. This was the attitude of
the matter when Mr. Buchanan entered the Senate.[51]

The Senate’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, at the head of which was Mr.
Clay, had made a report against the adoption of the President’s
recommendation. On the 14th of January, (1835) on a resolution
introduced by Mr. Cuthbert of Georgia, Mr. Buchanan took occasion to

                                        IN SENATE, January 14, 1835.

France had, before the close of the last session of Congress, declared
that it was the unanimous determination of the king’s government to
appear before the new legislature with its treaty and its bill in hand,
and that its intention was to do all that the charter allowed to hasten,
as much as possible, the period of the new presentation of the rejected
law. The President rested satisfied with this assurance, and, on the
faith of it, did not present the subject to Congress. How has France
redeemed this pledge? Has that government hastened, as much as possible,
the presentation of the rejected law? At the first meeting of the new
legislature the law was not presented; and in the face of this
engagement, the Chambers were prorogued, not to meet in the autumn, but
on the 29th of December, the very latest day which custom had
sanctioned. If this assurance had any meaning at all, it was that the
Chambers should be convened at least in sufficient time to communicate
to the President information that they had assembled, before the meeting
of Congress. The President, at the date of the message, was not aware
that the Chambers would assemble on the first of the month. No such
information had been communicated to him. It now appears that they did
assemble on that day. And the only reason that he should vote for the
resolution was, that he was willing to wait until the result of their
deliberations could be known.

What effect this circumstance might have had on the President’s mind,
had he known of its existence, he was not prepared to say. He had no
information to give on that subject.

There is a point, sir, said Mr. Buchanan, in the intercourse between
nations, at which diplomacy must end, and a nation must either consent
to abandon her rights, or assert them by force. After having negotiated
for a quarter of a century to obtain a treaty to redress the wrongs of
our injured citizens, and after the French Chamber has once deliberately
rejected that treaty, will not this point have been reached, should the
Chamber again refuse to make the appropriation? If this be so, is it not
right, is it not fair, to present the alternative to France? Would she
not have just cause to complain if we should not adopt this very course?
To inform her frankly and freely that we have arrived at this point, I
am solemnly convinced, is the best diplomacy to which we can resort to
obtain redress for the wrongs of the injured claimants. France will then
have the alternative fairly presented; and it will be for her to decide
whether she will involve herself in war with her ancient ally, rather
than pay those claims which the Executive branch of her Government have
determined to be just by a solemn treaty. Such an attitude on the part
of America will do more for the execution of the treaty than any
temporizing measures of policy which we can adopt. I never was more
clearly impressed with the truth of any proposition.

France, from the language of the President, will have no right to
consider this a menace. It is no more than to say, diplomacy has ended,
and the treaty must be executed, or we shall, however reluctantly, be
compelled to take redress into our own hands. France is a brave and a
chivalrous nation; her whole history proves that she is not to be
intimidated, even by Europe in arms; but she is wise as well as warlike.
To inform her that our rights must be asserted, is to place her in the
serious and solemn position of deciding whether she will resist the
payment of a just debt by force. Whenever she is convinced that this
result is inevitable, the money will be paid; and although I hope I may
be mistaken, I believe there will be no payment until she knows we shall
assume this attitude. France has never appeared to regard the question
in this serious light.

It has been asked what the American Congress would do placed in similar
circumstances. Would they appropriate money with a menace impending over
their heads? I answer, no, never. But I should never consider it a
menace, if, after refusing to vote an appropriation to carry a treaty
into effect, a foreign government in the spirit of candor, in language
mild and courteous, such as that used by the President, were to inform
us they could not abandon their rights, and, however painful it may be,
they should be compelled, by a sense of duty, to assert them by force.

After some further discussion, the resolution was so modified as to
declare that it was at that time inexpedient to adopt any legislative
measure in regard to the state of affairs between the United States and
France. In this form the resolution was unanimously adopted.

The President’s message was received in Paris in the early part of
January (1835). It was resented as a threat. The French minister at
Washington was recalled, and on the 13th of January, the day before the
vote in the Senate, Mr. Livingston, the minister of the United States at
Paris, was informed that his passports were at his service. But a bill
was introduced by the ministry in the Chambers, to make the necessary
appropriation. It was passed in the latter part of April, but with an
amendment making the payment conditional upon an apology from President
Jackson for the language of his message of the previous December. There
was little likelihood that any such apology would be made for language
addressed by the President to the people of the United States through
their representatives in Congress. On the contrary, in the early part of
the next session (January, 1836) the world was somewhat startled by a
recommendation made to Congress by the President, of partial
non-intercourse with France.[52] On the 18th of January, on a motion by
Mr. Clay to refer this recommendation to the Committee on Foreign

Mr. Buchanan said that he had been so much gratified with the message
which had just been read, that he could not, and he thought he ought
not, at this the very first moment, to refrain from expressing his
entire approbation of its general tone and spirit. He had watched with
intense anxiety the progress of our unfortunate controversy with France.
He had hoped, sincerely hoped, that the explanations which had been made
by Mr. Livingston, and officially approved by the President of the
United States, would have proved satisfactory to the French government.
In this he had found his hopes to be vain. After this effort had failed,
he felt a degree of confidence, almost amounting to moral assurance,
that the last message to Congress would have been hailed by France, as
it was by the American people, as the olive branch which would have
restored amity and good understanding between us and our ancient ally.
Even in this, he feared, he was again doomed to be disappointed. The
government of France, unless they change their determination, will not
consider this message as sufficient. We have the terms clearly
prescribed by the Duke de Broglie, upon which, and upon which alone, the
French government will consent to comply with the treaty, and to pay the
five millions of dollars to our injured fellow-citizens. Speculation is
now at an end. The clouds and darkness which have hung over this
question have vanished. It is now made clear as a sunbeam. The money
will not be paid, says the organ of the French government, unless the
Government of the United States shall address its claim officially in
writing to France, accompanied by what appeared to him, and he believed
would appear to the whole American people, without distinction of party,
to be a degrading apology. The striking peculiarity of the case, the one
which he would undertake to say distinguished it from any other case
which had arisen in modern times, in the intercourse between independent
nations, was, that the very terms of this apology were dictated to the
American Government by the French Secretary of Foreign Affairs. One of
these terms was, that it had never entered into the intention
(_pensée_), the thought of this Government, to call in question the good
faith of the government of France.

But the French Government proceed still further. Upon the refusal to
make this apology, which they ought to have known would never be
made—could never be made—they are not content to leave question where it
then was. They have given us notice in advance that they will consider
our refusal to make this degrading apology an evidence that the
misunderstanding did not proceed on our part from mere error and

In addition to all this, the last note of the Duke de Broglie to Mr.
Barton declares that the Government of the United States knows that
henceforward the execution of the treaty must depend upon itself. They
thus leave us to decide whether we shall make the apology in the
prescribed terms, or abandon our claim to the fulfillment of the treaty.

He would not allow himself to express the feelings which were excited in
his mind upon hearing these letters of the Duke de Broglie read. Most
sincerely, most ardently, did he hope that the French government, when
this message reached them, if not before, might reconsider their
determination, and that all our difficulties might yet pass away. But
their language is now clear, specific, incapable of ambiguity or doubt.
It would, then, become our duty calmly, but firmly, to take such a stand
as the interests and the honor of the country may require.

Mr. B. had already said much more than he intended when he rose. He
would, however, make another remark before he took his seat. He felt a
proper degree of confidence, he might add a great degree of confidence,
in the President of the United States. He knew him to be honest and
firm, and faithful to his country; prompt to resent its injuries and
avenge its wrongs. He confessed he had anticipated a message of a
stronger character. He had supposed that a general non-intercourse with
France would, at least, have been recommended. But the recommendation
was confined to the mere refusal to admit French ships or French
productions to enter our ports. It left France free to receive her
supplies of cotton from the United States, without which the
manufacturers of that country could not exist. This was wise, it was
prudent; it left to France to judge for herself if this unnatural
contest must still continue, whether she would close her ports against
our vessels and our productions.

In the spring of 1832 (Mr. B. did not recollect precisely the time)
Congress passed an act to carry into effect our part of the treaty.
Under this treaty, the wines of France had ever since been admitted into
the United States upon the favorable terms therein stipulated. Her silks
were imported free of duty, in contradistinction to those which came
from beyond the Cape of Good Hope. She had for years been enjoying these
privileges. Nothing milder, then, could possibly be recommended than to
withdraw these advantages from her, and to exclude her vessels and her
productions from our ports.

Mr. Buchanan said that when he made the observations which had called
forth the remarks of the Senator from South Carolina, (Mr. Calhoun) he
had believed the message to be the harbinger of peace, and not of war.
This was still his opinion. In this respect he differed entirely from
the gentleman. Under this impression, he had then risen merely to remark
that, considering the provocation which we had received, the tone, the
spirit, and the recommendations themselves, of the message, were mild
and prudent, and were well calculated to make an impression upon France,
and to render her sensible of her injustice.

It had been far from his intention to excite a general debate on the
French question, and he would not be drawn into it now by the remarks of
the Senator from South Carolina. He must, however, be permitted to say,
he was sorry, very sorry, that the gentleman had proclaimed that, if war
should come, we are the authors of that war, and it would be the fault,
not of the French, but of the American Government. Such a declaration,
proceeding from such a source, from a voice so powerful and so potent,
would be heard on the other side of the Atlantic, and there might
produce a most injurious effect. He was happy to say that this sentiment
was directly at war with the opinion of our Committee on Foreign
Relations, who, in their report of the last session, had expressed the
decided opinion that the American Government, should it become
necessary, must insist upon the execution of the treaty. It was at war
with the unanimous resolution of the House of Representatives of the
same session, declaring that the treaty must be maintained. He believed
it was equally at war with the feelings and opinions of the American

Whilst he expressed his hope and his belief that this message would
prove to be the olive branch of peace, still there was so much
uncertainty in the event, that it now became our imperative duty to
prepare for the worst. Shall we (said Mr. B.) whilst a powerful fleet is
riding along our southern coast, in a menacing attitude, sit here and
withhold from the President the means which are necessary to place our
country in a state of defence? He trusted this would never, never be the

The messages and documents were then read, and referred to the Committee
on Foreign Relations, as moved by Mr. Clay.

On the last night of the session, which terminated on the 3d-4th of
March, 1835, an amendment made in the House of Representatives, to the
Fortification bill, was before the Senate. It proposed:

“That the sum of three millions of dollars be and the same is hereby
appropriated, out of any money in the treasury not otherwise
appropriated, to be expended, in whole or in part, under the direction
of the President of the United States, for the military and naval
service, including fortifications and ordnance and increase of the navy:
Provided such expenditures shall be rendered necessary for the defence
of the country, prior to the next meeting of Congress.”

The motive of this amendment was to enable the President to put the
country into a more efficient state of defence, in view of the danger of
a war with France. It was opposed by Mr. Webster and Mr. Clay as an
unconstitutional mode of action, and also because the state of the
French question did not require such action. Mr. Buchanan (on the 3d of
March, 1835,) vindicated the amendment in the following manner:

Mr. Buchanan said he was astonished at the remarks which had been made
by gentlemen on the subject of this appropriation. The most fearful
apprehensions had been expressed, the destruction of our liberties had
been predicted, if we should grant to the President three millions of
dollars to defend the country, in case it should become necessary to
expend it for that purpose, before the next meeting of Congress. For his
part, he could realize no such dangers.

Gentlemen have said, and said truly, that the Constitution of the United
States has conferred upon Congress, and Congress alone, the power of
declaring war. When they go further, and state that this appropriation
will enable the executive to make war upon France, without the consent
of Congress, they are, in my humble judgment, entirely mistaken.

Sir, said Mr. B., what is the true nature, and what are the legitimate
objects of this appropriation? Do we not know that, although the
President cannot make offensive war against France, France may make war
upon us; and that we may thus be involved in hostilities in spite of
ourselves, before the next meeting of Congress? If the Chamber of
Deputies should determine to violate the treaty, and to fix an enduring
stigma upon the public faith of the French nation, is it certain that
France may not proceed a step further, and strike the first blow? Mr.
Livingston himself, in the correspondence which had been communicated to
us by the President, has expressed serious apprehensions that this may
be the result. France may consider war, eventually, to be inevitable;
she may, and I trust does, believe that we have determined not to submit
patiently to her violation of a solemn treaty and thus abandon the just
claims of our injured citizens; and taking advantage of our unprepared
condition, she may commence hostilities herself. The first blow is often
half the battle between nations as well as individuals. Have we any
security that such will not be her conduct? Have we any reason to
believe she will wait until we are ready? Her past history forbids us to
indulge too securely in any such belief. If she should adopt this
course, in what a fearful condition shall we place the country, if we
adjourn without making this appropriation! The Senate will observe that
not a dollar of this money can be drawn from the Treasury, unless it
shall become necessary for the defence of the country, prior to the next
meeting of Congress.

Another circumstance which renders this appropriation indispensable is,
that Congress cannot possibly be convened by the President much before
their usual time of meeting. There are, I believe, nine States in this
Union, who have not yet elected their representatives to the next
Congress. Some of these elections will take place in April, and others
not till August, and even October. We have now arrived almost at the
last hour of our political existence; and shall we leave the country
wholly defenceless until the meeting of the next Congress? Gentlemen
have warned us of the fearful responsibility which we should incur in
making this appropriation. Sir, said Mr. B., I warn them that the
responsibility will be still more dreadful, should we refuse it. In that
event, what will be our condition should we be attacked by France? Our
sea-coast, from Georgia to Maine, will be exposed to the incursions of
the enemy; our cities may be plundered and burned; the national
character may be disgraced; and all this whilst we have an overflowing
Treasury. When I view the consequences which may possibly flow from our
refusal to make this grant, I repeat that the responsibility of
withholding it may become truly dreadful. No portion of it shall rest
upon my shoulders.

Our constitutional right to appropriate this money is unquestionable.
Whilst I express this opinion, I am sorry that the present appropriation
is not more specific in its objects. Appropriation bills ought to be
passed in such a manner as to leave as little to executive discretion as
possible. The purposes for which the money is to be applied ought to be
clearly and distinctly stated. If there were time to do it, the bill
might be improved in this respect. But, sir, this is an extraordinary
crisis, and demands prompt action. We must now take it as it is, or not
take it at all. There is no time left to make the changes which might be

Gentlemen have contended that, under this appropriation, the President
would be authorized to increase the army, and appoint as many new
officers to command it as he thought proper. But this is not the case.
He could not, under any just construction of this bill, raise a single
new company, or appoint a single officer, not authorized by existing
laws. No such power is conferred upon him by its terms. It will
authorize him to expend three millions of the public money, should the
contingency happen which it contemplates, for putting the vessels of war
now in ordinary in a condition for actual service, and for completing
those the building of which has already been authorized by Congress. The
money may also be applied to the completion and repair of our
fortifications, and in placing them in a state of security and defence
against any attack. Should it become necessary to call out the militia
under existing laws, to garrison these fortifications, or defend our
coast, this money may also be expended for that purpose. There is
nothing in the language of the appropriation to justify the construction
that the President might raise new armies, and create new officers to
command them.

It is my own impression that there will be no necessity for expending
any portion of this money. If there should be, however: and it is the
part of wisdom to provide against such a contingency; let the
responsibility rest upon those who refuse the appropriation. The country
will be left defenceless, and the very knowledge of this circumstance
may invite an attack.

The entire Fortification Bill failed to be passed at this session, in
consequence of the disagreement between the two houses in regard to this
three million appropriation. At the next session, which began in
December, 1835, Colonel Benton of Missouri introduced in the Senate
certain resolutions for setting apart so much of the surplus revenue as
might be necessary for the defence and permanent security of the
country. On the 1st and 2d of February, 1836, Mr. Buchanan addressed the
Senate on these resolutions as follows:

Mr. PRESIDENT: I am much better pleased with the first resolution
offered by the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Benton) since he has modified
it upon the suggestion of the Senator from Tennessee (Mr. Grundy). When
individuals have more money than they know how to expend, they often
squander it foolishly. The remark applies, perhaps, with still greater
force to nations. When our Treasury is overflowing, Congress, who are
but mere trustees for the people, ought to be especially on their guard
against wasteful expenditures of the public money. The surplus can be
applied to some good and useful purpose. I am willing to grant all that
may be necessary for the public defence but no more. I am therefore
pleased that the resolution has assumed its present form.

The true question involved in this discussion is, on whom ought the
responsibility to rest for having adjourned on the 3d of March last
without providing for the defence of the country. There can be no doubt
a fearful responsibility rests somewhere. For my own part, I should have
been willing to leave the decision of this question to our constituents.
I am a man of peace; and dislike the crimination and recrimination which
this discussion must necessarily produce. But it is vain to regret what
cannot now be avoided. The friends of the administration have been
attacked; and we must now defend ourselves. I deem it necessary,
therefore, to state the reasons why I voted, on the 3d of March last, in
favor of the appropriation of three millions for the defence of the
country, and why I glory in that vote.

The language used by Senators in reference to this appropriation has
been very strong. It has been denounced as a violation of the
Constitution. It has been declared to be such a measure as would not
have received the support of the minority, had they believed it could
prevail, and they would be held responsible for it. It has been
stigmatized as most unusual—most astonishing—most surprising. And
finally, to cap the climax, it has been proclaimed that the passage of
such an appropriation would be virtually to create a dictator, and to
surrender the power of the purse and the sword into the hands of the

I voted for that appropriation under the highest convictions of public
duty, and I now intend to defend my vote against all these charges.

In examining the circumstances which not only justified this
appropriation, but rendered it absolutely necessary, I am forced into
the discussion of the French question. We have been told, that if we
should go to war with France, we are the authors of that war. The
Senator from New Jersey (Mr. Southard), has declared that it will be
produced by the boastful vanity of one man, the petulance of another,
and the fitful violence of a third. It would not be difficult to
conjecture who are the individuals to whom the Senator alludes.

He has also informed us, that in the event of such a war, the guilt
which must rest somewhere will be tremendous.

Now, sir, I shall undertake to prove, that scarcely an example exists in
history of a powerful and independent nation having suffered such wrongs
and indignities as we have done from France, with so much patience and
forbearance. If France should now resort to arms,—if our defenceless
seacoast should be plundered,—if the blood of our citizens should be
shed,—the responsibility of the Senate, to use the language of the
gentleman, will be tremendous. I shall not follow the example of the
Senator, and say, their guilt,—because that would be to attribute to
them an evil intention, which I believe did not exist.

In discussing this subject, I shall first present to the view of the
Senate the precise attitude of the two nations towards each other, when
the appropriation of three millions was refused, and then examine the
reasons which have been urged to justify this refusal. After having done
so, I shall exhibit our relations with France as they exist at the
present moment, for the purpose of proving that we ought now to adopt
the resolutions of the gentleman from Missouri, and grant all necessary
appropriations for the defence of the country.

In discussing this subject, it is not my intention to follow the
fortification bill either into the chamber of the committee of
conference, or into the hall of the House of Representatives. It is not
my purpose to explain the confusion which then existed, and which always
must exist after midnight, on the last evening of the session. I shall
contend that the Senate ought to have voted the three millions; that the
fortification bill ought to have passed the Senate with this amendment;
and that, therefore, the Senate is responsible not only for the loss of
this appropriation, but for that of the entire bill.

What then was the attitude in which we stood towards France at the
moment when the Senate rejected this appropriation for the defence of
the country? What, at that moment, was known, or ought to have been
known, in regard to this question by every Senator on this floor?

The justice of our claims upon France are now admitted by all mankind.
Our generosity was equal to their justice. When she was crushed in the
dust by Europe in arms—when her cities were garrisoned by a foreign
foe—when her independence was trampled under foot, we refused to urge
our claims. This was due to our ancient ally. It was due to our grateful
remembrance of the days of other years. The testimony of Lafayette
conclusively establishes this fact. In the Chamber of Deputies, on 13th
June, 1833, he declared that we had refused to unite with the enemies of
France in urging our claims in 1814 and 1815; and that, if we had done
so, these claims would then have been settled. This circumstance will
constitute one of the brightest pages of our history.

Was the sum secured to our injured fellow-citizens by the treaty of the
4th July, 1831, more than they had a right to demand? Let the report of
our Committee on Foreign Relations, at the last session, answer this
question. They concur entirely with the President, in the statement he
had made in his message, that it was absolutely certain the indemnity
fell far short of the actual amount of our just claims, independently of
damages and interest for the detention; and that it was well known at
the time that in this respect, the settlement involved a sacrifice. But
there is now no longer room for any conjecture or doubt upon this
subject. The commissioners under the treaty have closed their labors.
From the very nature of their constitution, it became the interest of
every claimant to reduce the other claims as much as possible, so that
his own dividend might thus be increased. After a laborious and patient
investigation, the claims which have been allowed by the commissioners
amount to $9,352,193.47. Each claimant will receive but little more than
half his principal, at the end of a quarter of a century, after losing
all the interest.

Why then has this treaty remained without execution on the part of
France, until this day? Our Committee on Foreign Relations, at the last
session, declared their conviction that the King of France “had
invariably, on all suitable occasions, manifested an anxious desire,
faithfully and honestly, to fulfil the engagements contracted under his
authority and in his name.” They say, that “the opposition to the
execution of the treaty, and the payment of our just claims, does not
proceed from the king’s government, but from a majority in the Chamber
of Deputies.”

Now, sir, it is my purpose to contest this opinion, and to show, as I
think I can conclusively, that it is not a just inference from the

And here, to prevent all possible misconstruction, either on this side,
or on the other side of the Atlantic, if by any accident my humble
remarks should ever travel to such a distance, permit me to say that I
am solely responsible for them myself. These opinions were in a degree
formed while I was in a foreign land, and were there freely expressed
upon all suitable occasions. I was then beyond the sphere of party
influence and felt only as an American citizen.

Is it not then manifest, to use the language of Mr. Livingston in his
note to the Count de Rigny of the 3d August, 1834, that the French
government have never appreciated the importance of the subject at its
just value? There are two modes in which the king could have manifested
this anxious desire faithfully to fulfil the treaty. These are, by words
and by actions. When a man’s words and his actions correspond, you have
the highest evidence of his sincerity. Even then he may be a hypocrite
in the eyes of that Being before whom the fountains of human action are
unveiled. But when a man’s words and his actions are at variance,—when
he promises and does not perform or even attempt to perform,—when “he
speaks the word of promise to the ear and breaks it to the hope,”—the
whole world will at once pronounce him insincere. If this be true in the
transactions of common life, with how much more force does it apply to
the intercourse between diplomatists? The deceitfulness of diplomacy has
become almost a proverb. In Europe the talent of over-reaching gives a
minister the glory of diplomatic skill. The French school has been
distinguished in this art. To prove it, I need only mention the name of
Talleyrand. The American school teaches far different lessons. On this
our success has, in a great degree, depended. The skillful diplomatists
of Europe are foiled by the downright honesty and directness of purpose
which have characterized all our negotiations.

Even the established forms of diplomacy contain much unmeaning language,
which is perfectly understood by everybody, and deceives nobody. If
ministers have avowed their sincerity, and their ardent desire to
execute the treaty; to deny them, on our part, would be insulting, and
might lead to the most unpleasant consequences. In forming an estimate
of their intentions, therefore, every wise man will regard their
actions, rather than their words. By their deeds they shall be known.
Let us then test the French government by this touchstone of truth.

The ratifications of the treaty of the 4th July, 1831, were exchanged at
Washington, on the 2d February, 1832. When this treaty arrived in Paris,
the French Chambers were in session, and they continued in session for
several weeks. They did not adjourn, until the 19th of April. No time
more propitious for presenting this treaty to the Chambers, could have
been selected, than that very moment. Europe then was, as I believe it
still is, one vast magazine of gunpowder. It was generally believed,
that the Polish revolution was the spark which would produce the
explosion. There was imminent danger of a continental war, in which
France, to preserve her existence, would have to put forth all her
energies. Russia, Prussia, and Austria, were armed and ready for the
battle. It was then the clear policy of France to be at a good
understanding with the United States. If it had been the ardent desire
of the king’s government, to carry into effect the stipulations of the
treaty, they would have presented it to the Chambers before their
adjournment. This would undoubtedly have been the course pursued by any
President of the United States, under similar circumstances. But the
treaty was not presented.

I freely admit, that this omission, standing by itself, might be
explained by the near approach of the adjournment, at the time the
treaty arrived from Washington. It is one important link, however, in
the chain of circumstances, which cannot be omitted.

The Government of the United States proceeded immediately to execute
their part of the treaty. By the act of the 13th July, 1832, the duties
on French wines were reduced according to its terms, to take effect from
the day of the exchange of ratifications. At the same session, the
Congress of the United States, impelled no doubt by their kindly
feelings towards France, which had been roused into action by what they
believed to be a final and equitable settlement of all our disputes,
voluntarily reduced the duty upon silks coming from this side of the
Cape of Good Hope to five per cent., whilst those beyond were fixed at
ten per cent. And at the next session, on the 2d of March, 1833, this
duty of five per cent. was taken off altogether; and ever since, French
silks have been admitted into our country free of duty. There is now, in
fact, a discriminating duty of ten per cent. in their favor, over silks
from beyond the Cape of Good Hope.

What has France gained by these measures, in duties on her wines and her
silks, which she would otherwise have been bound to pay? I have called
upon the Secretary of the Treasury, for the purpose of ascertaining the
amount. I now hold in my hand a tabular statement, prepared at my
request, which shows, that had the duties remained what they were at the
date of the ratification of the treaty, these articles, since that time,
would have paid into the Treasury on the 30th September, 1834, the sum
of $3,061,525. Judging from the large importations which have since been
made, I feel no hesitation in declaring it as my opinion that, at the
present moment, these duties would amount to more than the whole
indemnity which France has engaged to pay to our fellow-citizens. Before
the conclusion of the ten years mentioned in the treaty, she will have
been freed from the payment of duties to an amount considerably above
twelve millions of dollars.

By the same act of the 13th July, 1832, a board of commissioners was
established to receive, examine, and decide the claims of our citizens
under the treaty, who were to meet on the first day of the following
August. This act also directed the Secretary of the Treasury to cause
the several instalments, with the interest thereon, payable to the
United States in virtue of the convention, to be received from the
French government and transferred to the United States in such manner as
he may deem best. In this respect the provisions of the act corresponded
with the terms of the treaty, which prescribe that the money shall be
paid into the hands of such person or persons as shall be authorized to
receive it by the Government of the United States.

Were the French government immediately informed of all these
proceedings? Who can doubt it? Certainly no one at all acquainted with
the vigilance and zeal of their diplomatic agents.

The 19th of November, 1832, the day for the meeting of the Chambers, at
length arrived.—Every American was anxious to know what the king would
say in his speech concerning the treaty. No one could doubt but that he
would strongly recommend to the Chambers to make the appropriation of
twenty-five millions of francs, the first instalment of which would
become due on the 2d of February following. All, however, which the
speech contains in relation to the treaty is comprised in the following
sentences: “I have also ordered my minister to communicate to you the
treaty concluded on the 4th July, 1831, between my government and that
of the United States of America. This arrangement puts an end to the
reciprocal claims of the two countries.” Now, sir, I am well aware of
the brevity and non-committal character of kings’ speeches in Europe. I
know the necessity which exists there for circumspection and caution.
But making every fair allowance for these considerations, I may at least
say, that the speech does not manifest an anxious desire to carry the
treaty into effect. What might the king have said; what ought he have
said; what would he have said had he felt this anxious desire? It might
all have been embraced in a single additional sentence, such as the
following: “The Congress of the United States have already provided for
the admission of French wines into their ports upon the terms of this
treaty, and have voluntarily reduced their duties upon French silks, I
must, therefore, request you to grant me the means of discharging the
first instalment which will become due, under this treaty, on the 2d day
of February next.” The king did not even ask the Chambers for the money
necessary to redeem the faith of France. In this respect the debt due to
the United States is placed in striking contrast to the Greek
loan.—Immediately after the two sentences of the speech, which I have
already quoted, the king proceeds: “You will likewise be called to
examine the treaty by which Prince Otho of Bavaria is called to the
throne of Greece. _I shall have to request from you the means of
guaranteeing, in union with my allies, a loan which is indispensable for
the establishment of the new State founded by our cares and

The establishment of the new State founded by our cares and concurrence!
Russia, sir, has made greater advances by her skill in diplomacy than by
her vast physical power. Unless I am much mistaken, the creation of this
new State, with Prince Otho as its king, will accomplish the very object
which it was the interest and purpose of France to defeat. It will, in
the end, virtually convert Greece into a Russian province. I could say
much more on the subject, but I forbear. My present purpose is merely to
present in a striking view, the difference between the king’s language
in relation to our treaty, and that treaty which placed the son of the
king of Bavaria on the throne of Greece.

Time passed away, and the 2d February, 1833, the day when the first
instalment under the treaty became due, arrived. It was to be paid “into
the hands of such person or persons as shall be authorized by the
Government of the United States to receive it.” The money on that day
ought to have been ready at Paris. But strange, but most wonderful as it
may appear, although the Chambers had been in session from the 19th of
November until the 2d of February, the king’s government had never even
presented the treaty to the Chambers,—had never even asked them for a
grant of the money necessary to fulfil its engagements. Well might Mr.
Livingston say, that they had never properly appreciated the importance
of the subject.

The Government of the United States, knowing that the king in his speech
had promised to present the treaty to the Chambers, and knowing that
they had been in session since November, might have taken means to
demand the first instalment at Paris on the 2d day of February. Strictly
speaking, it was their duty to do so, acting as trustees for the
claimants. But they did not draw a bill of exchange at Washington for
the first instalment, until five days after it had become due at Paris.
This bill was not presented to the French government for payment until
the 23d of March, 1833. Even at that day the French ministry had not
presented either the treaty, or a bill to carry it into effect, to the
Chambers. The faith of France was thus violated by the neglect of the
king’s government, long before any bill was presented. They, and not the
Chambers, are responsible for this violation. It was even impossible for
the Chambers to prevent it. Had this treaty and bill been laid before
them in time to have enabled them to redeem the faith of France, the
loyalty of the French character would never have permitted them to be
guilty of a positive violation of national honor. The faith of the
nation was forfeited before they were called upon to act. The
responsibility was voluntarily assumed by the king’s ministers. The
Chambers are clear of it. Besides, the ministry were all powerful with
the Chambers during that session. They carried everything they urged.
Even the bill providing the means of guaranteeing the Greek loan became
a law. Can it then for a single moment be believed that if a bill to
carry into effect our treaty—a treaty securing such important advantages
to France—had been presented at an early period of the session, and had
been pressed by the ministry, that they would have failed in the
attempt? At all events, it was their imperative duty to pursue this
course. The aspect of the political horizon in Europe was still
lowering. There was still imminent danger of a general war. France was
still in a position to make her dread any serious misunderstanding with
the United States.

After all this, on the 26th March, the Duke de Broglie, in a note to Mr.
Niles, our chargé d’affaires at Paris, stated that it was “a source of
regret, and, indeed, of astonishment, that the Government of the United
States did not think proper to have an understanding with that of
France, before taking this step.” What step? The demand of an honest
debt, almost two months after it had been due, under a solemn treaty.
Indeed, the duke, judging from the tone of his note, appears almost to
have considered the demand an insult. To make a positive engagement to
pay a fixed sum on a particular day, and when that sum is demanded
nearly two months after, to express astonishment to the creditor, would,
in private life, be considered trifling and evasive.

The excuse made by the French ministry for their conduct is altogether
vain. Had they dreaded the vote of the Chambers—had they been afraid to
appear before them with their treaty and their bill, they would, and
they ought to have communicated their apprehensions to this Government,
and asked it to suspend the demand of the money. But they had never
whispered such a suspicion, after the exchange of their ratifications of
the treaty; and the first intimation of it on this side of the Atlantic,
was accompanied by the astounding fact that the French government had
dishonored our bill. It is true, that before the treaty was signed, they
had expressed some apprehensions to Mr. Rives on this subject. These, it
would seem, from their subsequent conduct, were merely diplomatic, and
intended to produce delay; because, from the date of the treaty, on the
4th July, 1831, until after our bill of exchange was dishonored in
March, 1833, no intimation of danger from that quarter was ever
suggested. These circumstances made a great noise throughout Europe, and
soon became the subject of general remark.

On the 6th of April, 1833, a year and more than two months after the
exchange of the ratifications at Washington, the treaty and bill were
first presented to the French Chambers. The session closed on the 25th
of April, without any further action on the subject. No attempt was made
by the ministry to press it; and as the session would terminate so soon,
perhaps no attempt ought to have been made. But, as a new session was to
commence the day after the termination of the old, and to continue two
months, a favorable opportunity was thus presented to urge the passage
of the law upon the Chambers. Was this done? No, sir. The ministry still
continued to pursue the same course. They suffered the remainder of the
month of April to pass, the month of May to pass, and not until the
eleventh of June, only fifteen days before the close of the session, did
they again present the bill to carry into effect the treaty. It was
referred to a committee, of which Mr. Benjamin Delessert was the
chairman. On the 18th of June, he made a report. This report contains a
severe reprimand of the French government for not having presented the
bill at an earlier period of the session; and expresses the hope that
the treaty may be communicated at the opening of the next session. If we
are to judge of the opinion of the Chamber from the tone and character
of this report, instead of being hostile to the execution of the treaty,
had it been presented to them in proper time, they felt every
disposition to regard it in a favorable light. I shall read the whole
report—it is very short, and is as follows:

“Gentlemen: The committee charged by you, to examine the bill relative
to the treaty, concluded on the 4th of July, 1831, between France and
the United States, has demanded a number of documents and reports, which
must be examined, in order to obtain a complete knowledge of so
important a transaction.

“The committee was soon convinced that a conscientious examination of
these papers would require much time; and that, at so advanced a period
of the session, its labors would have no definitive result. It regrets
that, from motives which the government only can explain, the bill was
not presented earlier to the Chamber for discussion. It regrets this so
much the more as it is convinced of the importance of the treaty, which
essentially interests our maritime commerce, our agriculture, and our

“Several chambers of commerce, particularly those of Paris and Lyons,
have manifested an ardent desire that the business should be speedily

“The committee would be satisfied if, after a deeper study of the
question, it could enlighten the Chamber with regard to the justice of
the claims alleged by each of the parties to the treaty, and which form
the basis of it; but as time does not allow a definitive report to be
made on the subject, it considers itself as the organ of the Chamber, in
expressing the wish that this treaty be communicated, at the opening of
the next session; and that its result may be such as to strengthen the
bonds of friendship, which must ever exist between two nations so long
united by common interest and sympathy.”

After a careful review of this whole transaction, I am convinced that
the government of France never would have pursued such a course towards
us, had they entertained a just sense of our power, and our willingness
to exert it in behalf of our injured fellow-citizens. Had Russia or
Austria been her creditors, instead of ourselves, the debt would have
been paid when it became due; or, at the least, the ministers of the
king would have exerted themselves, in a far different manner, to obtain
the necessary appropriation from the Chambers. I am again constrained,
however reluctantly, to adopt the opinion which I had formed at the
moment. Our fierce political strife in this country is not understood in
Europe; and least of all, perhaps, in France. During the autumn of 1832,
and the session of 1832–3, it was believed abroad that we were on the
very eve of a revolution; that our glorious Union was at the point of
dissolution. I speak, sir, from actual knowledge. Whilst the advocates
of despotism were looking forward, with eager hope, to see the last free
republic blotted out from the face of nations, the friends of freedom
throughout the world were disheartened, and dreaded the result of our
experiment. The storm did rage in this country with the utmost violence.
It is no wonder that those friends of liberty, on the other side of the
Atlantic, who did not know how to appreciate the recuperative energies
of a free and enlightened people, governed by Federal and State
institutions of their own choice, should have been alarmed for the
safety of the Republic. For myself I can say that I never felt any
serious apprehension; yet the thrill of delight with which I received
the news of the passage of the famous compromise law of March, 1833, can
never be effaced from my memory. I did not then stop to inquire into the
nature of its provisions. It was enough for me to know that the Republic
was safe, not only in my own opinion, but in the opinion of the world.

Suppose, sir, that the President of the United States, under similar
circumstances, had withheld a treaty from Congress requiring an
appropriation, for fourteen months after it had been duly ratified, and
had thus forfeited the national faith to a foreign government, what
would have been the consequence? Sir, he ought to have been, he would
have been impeached. No circumstances could ever have justified such
conduct in the eyes of the American Congress or the American people.

After all the provocation which the President had received, as the
representative of his country, what was his conduct? It might have been
supposed that this violent man, as the Senator from New Jersey (Mr.
Southard) has designated him, would at once have recommended decisive
measures. Judging from his energy,—from his well-known devotion to the
interests of his country,—and above all, from his famous declaration to
ask nothing from foreign nations but what was right, and to submit to
nothing wrong, I should have expected from him an indignant message at
the commencement of the next session of Congress. Instead of that, the
message of December, 1833, in relation to French affairs, is of the
mildest character. It breathes a spirit of confident hope that our
ancient ally would do us justice during the next session of the
Chambers. His exposition of the subject is concluded by the following

“As this subject involves important interests, and has attracted a
considerable share of the public attention, I have deemed it proper to
make this explicit statement of its actual condition; and should I be
disappointed in the hope now entertained, the subject will be again
brought to the notice of Congress in such a manner as the occasion may

And thus ends the first act of this astonishing historical drama.
Throughout the whole of it, beginning, middle and end, the French
government, and not the French Chambers, were exclusively to blame.

We have now arrived at the mission of Mr. Livingston. He reached Paris
in September, 1833. The Duc de Broglie assured him “that the king’s
government would willingly and without hesitation promise to direct the
deliberations of the Chambers to the _projet de loi_ relative to the
execution of the convention of July 4, 1831, on the day after the
Chamber is constituted, and to employ every means to secure the happy
conclusion of an affair, the final determination of which the United
States cannot desire more ardently than ourselves.” After this
assurance, and after all that had passed, it was confidently expected
that the king would, in strong terms, have recommended the adoption of
the appropriation by the Chambers. In this we were again doomed to
disappointment. In his opening speech he made no direct allusion to the
subject. He simply says, that, “the financial laws, and those required
for the execution of treaties, will be presented to you.”

The bill was presented, and debated, and finally rejected by the Chamber
of Deputies on the 1st day of April, 1834, by a vote of 176 to 168. It
is not my present purpose to dwell upon the causes of this rejection. No
doubt the principal one was that the French ministers were surrounded
near the conclusion of the debate, and were unable at the moment to show
that the captures at St. Sebastians were not included in our treaty with
Spain. I am sorry they were not better prepared upon this point; but I
attribute to them no blame on that account.

It has been urged over and over again, both on this floor and elsewhere,
that the rejection of the treaty was occasioned by the publication in
this country of Mr. Rives’s letter to Mr. Livingston of the 8th of July,
1831. Is this the fact? If it be so it ought to be known to the world.
If it be not, both the character of this Government and of Mr. Rives
should be rescued from the imputation. What is the opinion expressed in
this letter? Is it that the American claimants would obtain, under the
treaty, more than the amount of their just claims? No such thing. Is it
that they would obtain the amount of their just claims with interest?
Not even this. The negotiator merely expresses the opinion that they
would receive every cent of the principal. He does not allege that they
would receive one cent of interest for a delay of nearly a quarter of a
century. This opinion is evidently founded upon that expressed by Mr.
Gallatin in a despatch dated on the 14th January, 1822, cited by Mr.
Rives, in which the former expresses his belief that five millions of
dollars would satisfy all our just claims. It ought to be observed that
the sum stipulated to be paid by the treaty is only 25,000,000 of
francs, or about $4,700,000; and that more than nine years had elapsed
between the date of Mr. Gallatin’s despatch and the signing of the
treaty. These facts all appear on the face of the letter, with the
additional fact that the statements of the claimants, which have from
time to time been presented to Congress, carry the amount of the claims
much higher. These statements, however, Mr. Rives did not believe were a
safe guide.

This is the amount of the letter, when fairly analyzed, which, it is
alleged, destroyed the treaty before the French Chambers. If a copy of
it had been placed in the hands of every Deputy, it could not possibly
have produced any such effect.

That it did not occasion the rejection of the treaty is absolutely
certain. I have examined the whole debate for the purpose of discovering
any allusion to this letter; but I have examined it in vain. Not the
slightest trace of the letter can be detected in any of the numerous
speeches delivered on that occasion. The topics of opposition were
various, and several of them of a strange character; but the letter is
not even once alluded to throughout the whole debate. If its existence
were known at the time in the French Chamber, this letter, written by a
minister to his own government, expressing a favorable opinion of the
result of his own negotiations, was a document of a character so
natural, so much to be expected, that not one Deputy in opposition to
the treaty believed it to be of sufficient importance even to merit a
passing notice. Still, I have often thought it strange it had never been
mentioned in the debate. The mystery is now resolved. The truth is, this
letter, which is alleged to have produced such fatal effects, was
entirely unknown to the members of the French Chamber when they rejected
the treaty. This fact is well established by a letter from Mr. Jay, the
chairman of the committee appointed by the Chamber of Deputies to
investigate our claims, addressed to Mr. Gibbes, and dated at Paris on
the 24th January, 1835. I shall read it.

(_Extract of a letter from Mr. Jay to Mr. Gibbes, dated 24th January,
1835._)—“It is asserted in the American prints that the rejection of the
American treaty by the Chamber of Deputies, at their last session, was
chiefly owing to the publication of a letter from Mr. Rives to his own
Government. This is an error, which justice to that distinguished
statesman, and a sense of his unremitting exertions to promote the
interests of his Government while here, induce me formally to
contradict. No such evidence appears in the debates; and in none of my
conversations with the members have I heard his letter alleged as the
motive for disputing the amount due. I much question, indeed, if any
other Deputy than myself ever read the letter alluded to.”

We have now arrived at that point of time when a majority of the French
Chambers arrayed themselves against the treaty. This decision was made
on the 1st April, 1834. Some apprehensions then prevailed among the king
and his ministers. The business was now becoming serious. New assurances
had now become necessary to prevent the President from presenting the
whole transaction to Congress, which they knew would still be in
session, when the information of the rejection would reach the United
States. In his annual message, at the commencement of the session, it
will be recollected, he had declared that should he be disappointed in
the hope then entertained, he would again bring the subject before
Congress, in such a manner as the occasion might require. They knew that
he was a man who performed his promises, and a great effort was to be
made to induce him to change his purpose.

Accordingly a French brig of war, the Cuirassier, is fitted out with
despatches to Mr. Serrurier. They reached him on the 3d June. On the
4th, he has an interview with Mr. McLane, and makes explanations which
the latter very properly requests may be reduced to writing. In
compliance with this request, the French minister, on the 5th, addresses
a note to Mr. McLane. After expressing the regrets of the French
government at the rejection of the bill, he uses the following language:
“The king’s government, sir, after this rejection, the object of so much
painful disappointment to both governments, has deliberated, and its
unanimous determination has been to make an appeal from the first vote
of the present Chamber to the next Chamber, and to appear before the
next legislature with its treaty and its bill in hand.

“It flatters itself that the light already thrown upon this serious
question, during these first debates, and the expression of the public
wishes becoming each day more clear and distinct, and, finally, a more
mature examination, will have, in the mean time, modified the minds of
persons, and that its own conviction will become the conviction of the
Chambers. The king’s government, sir, will make every loyal and
constitutional effort to that effect, and will do all that its
persevering persuasion of the justice and of the mutual advantages of
the treaty authorizes you to expect from it. Its intention, moreover, is
to do all that our constitution allows, to hasten, as much as possible,
the period of the new presentation of the rejected law.

“Such, sir, are the sentiments, such the intentions of his majesty’s
government. I think I may rely that, on its part, the Government of the
Republic will avoid, with foreseeing solicitude, in this transitory
state of things, all that might become a fresh cause of irritation
between the two countries, compromit the treaty, and raise up an
obstacle perhaps insurmountable, to the views of reconciliation and
harmony which animate the king’s council.”

Now, sir, examine this letter, even without any reference to the answer
of Mr. McLane, and can there be a doubt as to its true construction? It
was not merely the disposition, but “it was the _intention_ of the
king’s government to do all that their constitution allows; to hasten,
as much as possible, the period of the new presentation of the rejected
law.” The President knew that under the constitution of France the king
could at any time convoke the Chambers upon three weeks’ notice. It was
in his power, therefore, to present this law to the Chambers whenever he
thought proper. The promise was to hasten this presentation as much as
possible. Without any thing further the President had a right
confidently to expect that the Chambers would be convoked in season to
enable him to present their decision to the Congress of the United
States in his next annual message. The assurance was made on the 5th
June, and Congress did not assemble until the beginning of December. But
the letter of Mr. McLane, of the 27th June, removes all possible doubt
from this subject. He informs Mr. Serrurier that “the President is still
unable to understand the causes which led to the result of the
proceeding in the Chamber, especially when he recollected the assurances
which had so often been made by the king and his ministers, of their
earnest desire to carry the convention into effect, and the support
which the Chamber had afforded in all the other measures proposed by the
king.” And again:

“The assurances which M. Serrurier’s letter contains, of the adherence
of the king’s government to the treaty, of its unanimous determination
to appeal from the decision of the present to the new Chamber, and its
conviction that the public wish, and a mature examination of the
subject, will lead to a favorable result, and its intention to make
every constitutional effort to that effect, and finally, its intention
to do all that the constitution allows to hasten the presentation of the
new law, have been fully considered by the President.

“Though fully sensible of the high responsibility which he owes to the
American people, in a matter touching so nearly the national honor, the
President, still trusting to the good faith and justice of France,
willing to manifest a spirit of forbearance so long as it may be
consistent with the rights and dignity of his country, and truly
desiring to preserve those relations of friendship, which, commencing in
our struggle for independence, form the true policy of both nations, and
sincerely respecting the king’s wishes, will rely upon the assurances
which M. Serrurier has been instructed to offer, and will therefore
await with confidence the promised appeal to the new Chamber.

“The President, in desiring the undersigned to request that his
sentiments on this subject may be made known to his majesty’s
government, has instructed him also to state his expectation that the
king, seeing the great interests now involved in the subject, and the
deep solicitude felt by the people of the United States respecting it,
will enable him, when presenting the subject to Congress, as his duty
will require him to do at the opening of their next session, to announce
at that time the result of that appeal, and of his majesty’s efforts for
its success.”

Had this letter of Mr. McLane placed a different construction upon the
engagement of the French government from that which Mr. Serrurier
intended to communicate, it was his duty to make the necessary
explanations without delay. He, in that case, would have done so
instantly. It was a subject of too much importance to suffer any
misapprehension to exist concerning it for a single moment.

Notwithstanding all which had passed, the President, on the faith of
these assurances of the French government, suffered Congress to adjourn
without presenting the subject to their view. This rash, this violent
man, instigated by his own good feelings towards our ancient ally, and
by his love of peace, determines that he would try them once more, that
he once more would extend the olive branch before presenting to Congress
and the nation a history of our wrongs. I confess I do not approve of
this policy. I think the time had then arrived to manifest to France
some sensibility on our part on account of her delay in executing the
treaty. I believe that such a course would have been dictated by sound

What were the consequences of this new manifestation of the kindly
feelings of the President towards France? Was it properly appreciated by
the French government? Was it received in the liberal and friendly
spirit from which it had proceeded? Let the sequel answer these
questions. I shall read you Mr. Livingston’s opinion on the subject. In
a letter to Mr. Forsyth, under date of the 22d November, 1834, he thus
expresses himself:

“I do not hope for any decision on our affairs before the middle of
January. One motive for delay is an expectation that the message of the
President may arrive before the discussion, and that it may contain
something to show a strong national feeling on the subject. _This is not
mere conjecture: I know the fact_; and I repeat now, from a full
knowledge of the case, what I have more than once stated in my former
despatches as my firm persuasion, that the moderate tone taken by our
Government, when the rejection was first known, was attributed by some
to indifference, or to a conviction on the part of the President that he
would not be supported in any strong measure by the people, and by
others to a consciousness that the convention had given us more than we
were entitled to ask.”

I shall now proceed to show in what manner the French government
performed the engagement which had been made by their representative in
Washington to hasten the presentation of the rejected law as much as

The Chambers met on the 31st July, and the king made them a speech. This
speech contains no allusion to the subject of the treaty except the
following: “The laws necessary for carrying treaties into effect, and
those still required for the accomplishment of the promises of the
Chamber, will be presented to you in the course of this session.” The
rejected bill was not presented. After a session of two weeks, the
Chambers were prorogued on the 16th August until the 29th December,—a
day, almost a month after the next meeting of Congress.

I admit that strong reasons existed for dispensing with that part of the
obligation which required the French government to present the bill at
this short session. No good reason has ever been alleged to excuse them
for proroguing the Chambers until so late a day as the 29th of December.
They might have met, and they ought to have met, at an early period of
the autumn. They have heretofore met, on different occasions, for the
despatch of business, in every month of the year. It was in vain that
Mr. Livingston urged the necessity of an earlier meeting on the Count de
Rigny. It was in vain that he appealed to the positive engagement of the
French government made by Mr. Serrurier. It was in vain that he declared
to him, “that the President could not, at the opening of the next
session of Congress, avoid laying before that body a statement of the
then position of affairs on this interesting subject, nor, under any
circumstances, permit that session to end, as it must, on the third of
March, without recommending such measures as he may deem that justice
and the honor of the country may require.” All his remonstrances were
disregarded. Instead of hastening the presentation of the rejected law
as much as possible, they refused to assemble the Chambers in time even
to present the bill before the meeting of Congress. Their meeting was so
long delayed, as to render it almost impossible that their determination
should be known in this country before the close of the session,
notwithstanding the President had agreed not to present the subject to
Congress at the previous session, under a firm conviction that he would
receive this determination in time to lay it before them at the
commencement of their next session. Is there a Senator in this hall, who
can believe for a moment, that if the President had been informed the
rejected bill would not be laid before the Chambers until the 29th
December, he would have refrained from communicating to Congress, at
their previous session, the state of the controversy between the two
countries? Upon this construction, the engagement of the French
government was mere words, without the slightest meaning; and the
national vessel which brought it in such solemn form, might much better
have remained at home.

What was the apology—what was the pretext under which the king’s
government refused to assemble the Chambers at an earlier period? It
was, that Mr. Serrurier had made no engagement to that effect, and that
the intention which he had expressed in behalf of his government to do
all that the constitution allows, to hasten, as much as possible, the
period of the new presentation of the rejected law, meant no more than
that this was their disposition. The word “intention” is thus changed
into “disposition” by the Count de Rigny, and the whole engagement which
was presented to the President in such an imposing form, was thus
converted into a mere unmeaning profession of their desire to hasten
this presentation as much as possible.

Sir, at the commencement of the session of Congress, it became the duty
of the President to speak, and what could any American expect that he
would say? The treaty had been violated in the first instance, by the
ministers of the French king, in neglecting to lay it before the
Chambers until after the first instalment was due. It was then twice
submitted, at so late a period of the session, that it was impossible
for the Chambers to examine and decide the question before their
adjournment. On the last of these occasions, the chairman of the
committee, to which the subject was referred, had reported a severe
reprimand against the government, for not having sooner presented the
bill, and expressed a hope that it might be presented at an early period
of the next session. It was then rejected by the Chamber of Deputies;
and when the French government had solemnly engaged to hasten the
presentation of the rejected law, as soon as their constitution would
permit, they prorogue the Chambers to the latest period which custom
sanctions, in the very face of the remonstrances of the minister of the
United States. I ask again, sir, before such an array of circumstances,
what could any man, what could any American expect the President would
say in his message? The cup of forbearance had been drained by him to
the very dregs. It was then his duty to speak so as to be heard and to
be regarded on the other side of the Atlantic. If the same spirit which
dictated the message, or anything like it, had been manifested by
Congress, the money, in my opinion, would ere this have been paid.

The question was then reduced to a single point. We demanded the
execution of a solemn treaty; it had been refused. France had promised
again to bring the question before the Chambers as soon as possible. The
Chambers were prorogued until the latest day. The President had every
reason to believe that France was trifling with us, and that the treaty
would again be rejected. Is there a Senator, within the sound of my
voice, who, if France had finally determined not to pay the money, would
have tamely submitted to this violation of national faith? Not one!

The late war with Great Britain elevated us in the estimation of the
whole world. In every portion of Europe, we have reason to be proud that
we are American citizens. We have paid dearly for the exalted character
we now enjoy among the nations, and we ought to preserve it and transmit
it unimpaired to future generations. To them it will be a most precious

If, after having compelled the weaker nations of the world to pay us
indemnities for captures made from our citizens, we should cower before
the power of France, and abandon our rights against her, when they had
been secured by a solemn treaty, we should be regarded as a mere Hector
among the nations. The same course which you have pursued towards the
weak, you must pursue towards the powerful. If you do not, your name
will become a by-word and a proverb.

But under all the provocations which the country had received, what is
the character of that message? Let it be scanned with eagle eyes, and
there is nothing in its language at which the most fastidious critic can
take offence. It contains an enumeration of our wrongs in mild and
dignified language, and a contingent recommendation of reprisals, in
case the indemnity should again be rejected by the Chambers. But in
this, and in all other respects, it defers entirely to the judgment of
Congress. Every idea of an intended menace is excluded by the
President’s express declaration. He says: “Such a measure ought not to
be considered by France as a menace. Her pride and power are too well
known to expect any thing from her fears, and preclude the necessity of
the declaration, that nothing partaking of the character of intimidation
is intended by us.”

I ask again, is it not forbearing in its language? Is there a single
statement in it not founded upon truth? Does it even state the whole
truth against France? Are there not strong points omitted? All these
questions must be answered in the affirmative. On this subject we have
strong evidence from the Duke de Broglie himself. In his famous letter
to Mr. Pageot of June 17th, 1835,—the arrow of the Parthian as he
flew,—this fact is admitted. He says:

“If we examine in detail the message of the President of the United
States, (I mean that part of it which concerns the relations between the
United States and France,) it will possibly be found, that passing
successively from phrase to phrase, none will be met that cannot bear an
interpretation more or less plausible, nor of which, strictly speaking,
it cannot be said that it is a simple exposé of such a fact, true in
itself, or the assertion of such or such a right which no one contests,
or the performance of such or such an obligation imposed on the
President by the very nature of his functions. There will certainly be
found several in which the idea of impeaching the good faith of the
French government, or of acting upon it through menace or intimidation,
is more or less disavowed.”

It was the whole message, and not any of the detached parts, at which
the French government chose to take offence.

It is not my present purpose to discuss the propriety of the
recommendation of reprisals, or whether that was the best mode of
redress which could have been suggested. Some decided recommendation,
however, was required from the executive, both by public opinion and by
the wrongs which we had so long patiently endured.

Who can suppose that the executive intended to menace France, or to
obtain from her fears what would be denied by her sense of justice? The
President, in this very message, expressly disclaims such an idea. Her
history places her far above any such imputation. The wonder is, how she
could have ever supposed the President, against his own solemn
declaration, intended to do her any such injustice. She ought to have
considered it as it was, a mere executive recommendation to Congress,
not intended for her at all—not to operate upon her fears, but upon
their deliberations in deciding whether any and what measures should be
adopted to secure the execution of the treaty. But on this subject I
shall say more hereafter.

We have now arrived at the special message of the President to Congress
of the 26th February last; a document which has a most important bearing
on the appropriation of the three millions which was rejected by the
Senate. I have given this historical sketch of our controversy with
France, for the purpose of bringing Senators to the very point of time,
and to the precise condition of this question, when the Senate negatived
that appropriation.

What had Congress done in relation to the French question when this
message was presented to us? Nothing, sir, nothing. The Senate had
unanimously passed a resolution on the 15th January, that it was
inexpedient, at present, to adopt any legislative measure, in regard to
the state of affairs between the United States and France. This
unanimity was obtained by two considerations. The one was, that the
French Chambers had been convened, though not for the purpose of acting
upon our treaty, on the first, instead of the twenty-ninth of December,
a fact unknown to the President at the date of his message. The other,
that this circumstance afforded a reasonable ground of hope, that we
might learn their final determination before the close of our session on
the 3d March. But whatever may have been the causes, the Senate had
determined that, for the present, nothing should be done.

In the House of Representatives, at the date of the special message, on
the 26th February, no measure whatever had been adopted. The President
had just cause to believe that the sentiments contained in his message
to Congress, at the commencement of their session, were not in unison
with the feelings of either branch of the legislature. He therefore
determined to lay all the information in his possession before Congress,
and leave it for them to decide whether any or what measures should be
adopted for the defence of the country. I shall read this message. It is
as follows:

“I transmit to Congress a report from the Secretary of State, with
copies of all the letters received from Mr. Livingston since the message
to the House of Representatives of the 6th instant, of the instructions
given to that minister, and of all the late correspondence with the
French government in Paris, or in Washington, except a note of Mr.
Serrurier, which, for the reasons stated in the report, is not now

“It will be seen that I have deemed it my duty to instruct Mr.
Livingston to quit France with his legation, and return to the United
States, if an appropriation for the fulfilment of the convention shall
be refused by the Chambers.

“The subject being now, in all its present aspects, before Congress,
whose right it is to decide what measures are to be pursued on that
event, I deem it unnecessary to make further recommendation, being
confident that, on their part, every thing will be done to maintain the
rights and honor of the country which the occasion requires.”

The President leaves the whole question to Congress. What was the
information then communicated? That a very high state of excitement
existed against us in France. That the French minister had been recalled
from this country; an act which is generally the immediate precursor of
hostilities between nations. Besides, Mr. Livingston, who was a
competent judge and on the spot, with the best means of knowledge,
informed his Government that he would not be surprised, should the law
be rejected, if they anticipated our reprisals, by the seizure of our
vessels in port, or the attack of our ships in the Mediterranean, by a
superior force. Such were his apprehensions, upon this subject, that he
felt it to be his duty, without delay, to inform Commodore Patterson of
the state of things, so that he might be upon his guard.

Ought these apprehensions of Mr. Livingston to have been disregarded?
Let the history of that gallant people answer this question. How often
has the injustice of their cause been concealed from their own view by
the dazzling brilliancy of some grand and striking exploit? Glory is
their passion, and their great emperor, who knew them best, often acted
upon this principle. To anticipate their enemy, and commence the war
with some bold stroke, would be in perfect accordance with their

Every Senator, when he voted upon the appropriation, must have known, or
at least might have known, all the information which was contained in
the documents accompanying the President’s message.

It has been objected, that if the President desired this appropriation
of three millions, he ought to have recommended it in his message. I
protest against this principle. He acted wisely, discreetly, and with a
becoming respect for Congress, to leave the whole question to their
decision. This was especially proper, as we had not thought proper to
adopt any measure in relation to the subject.

Suppose the President had, in his special message, recommended this
appropriation, what would have been said, and justly said, upon the
subject? Denunciations the most eloquent would have resounded against
him throughout the whole country, from Georgia to Maine. It would have
everywhere been proclaimed as an act of executive dictation. In our then
existing relations with France, it would have been said, and said with
much force, that such a recommendation from the executive might have had
a tendency to exasperate her people, and produce war. Besides, I shall
never consent to adopt the principle that we ought to take no measures
to defend the country, without the recommendation of the executive. This
would be to submit to that very dictation, against which, on other
occasions, gentlemen themselves have so loudly protested. No, sir, I
shall always assert the perfect right of Congress to act upon such
subjects, independently of any executive recommendation.

This special message was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations,
in the House of Representatives, on the 26th February. On the next day
they reported three resolutions, one of which was, “that contingent
preparation ought to be made, to meet any emergency growing out of our
relations with France.” The session was rapidly drawing to a close. But
a few days of it then remained. It would have been vain to act upon this
resolution. It was a mere abstraction. Had it been adopted, it could
have produced no effect; the money was wanted to place the country in a
state of defence, and not a mere opinion that it ought to be granted.
The chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations, therefore, on the
28th February, had this resolution laid upon the table, and gave notice
that he would move an amendment to the fortification bill, appropriating
three millions of dollars, one million to the army, and two millions to
the navy, to provide for the contingent defence of the country.

It has been urged, that because the President, in his last annual
message, has said that this contingent appropriation was inserted
according to his views, that some blame attaches to him from the mode of
its introduction. Without pretending to know the fact, I will venture
the assertion, that he never requested any member, either of this or the
other branch of the legislature, to make such a motion. He had taken his
stand—he had left the whole subject to Congress. From this he never
departed. If the chairman of any committee, or any other member of the
Senate or the House, called upon him to know his views upon the subject,
he no doubt communicated them freely and frankly. This is his nature.
Surely no blame can attach to him for having expressed his opinion upon
this subject to any member who might ask it. It has been the uniform
course pursued on such occasions.

On the 2d of March, the House of Representatives, by a unanimous vote,
resolved that, in their opinion, the treaty with France, of the 4th
July, 1831, should be maintained, and its execution insisted on. This
was no party vote. It was dictated by a common American feeling, which
rose superior to party. After this solemn declaration of the House, made
in the face of the world, how could it be supposed they would adjourn,
without endeavoring to place the country in an attitude of defence?
What, sir! The representatives of the people, with an overflowing
treasury, to leave the country naked and exposed to hostile invasion,
and to make no provision for our navy, after having declared unanimously
that the treaty should be maintained! Who could have supposed it?

On the 3d of March, upon the motion of the chairman of the Committee on
Foreign Relations (Mr. Cambreleng) and in pursuance of the notice which
he had given on the 28th of February, this appropriation of three
millions was annexed as an amendment to the fortification bill. The vote
upon the question was 109 in the affirmative, and 77 in the negative.
This vote, although not unanimous, like the former, was no party vote.
The bill, thus amended, was brought to the Senate. Now, sir, let me ask,
if this appropriation had proceeded from the House alone, without any
message or any suggestion from the executive, would this not have been a
legitimate source? Ought such an appropriation to be opposed in the
Senate, because it had not received executive sanction? Have the
Representatives of the people no right to originate a bill for the
defence and security of their constituents and their country, without
first consulting the will of the President? For one, I shall never
submit to any such a slavish principle. It would make the Executive
every thing, and Congress nothing.

Had the indemnity been absolutely rejected by the Chambers, the two
nations would have been placed in a state of defiance towards each
other. In such a condition it was the right—nay, more, it was the
imperative duty of the House of Representatives to make contingent
preparation for the worst. The urgency of the case was still more
striking, because in ten or eleven of the States Representatives could
not be elected until months after the adjournment, and, therefore,
Congress could not have been assembled to meet any emergency which might

But, sir, does it require a recommendation of the Executive, or a vote
of the House of Representatives, to originate such an appropriation? Any
individual Senator or member of the House may do it with the strictest
propriety. Did the Senator from Delaware (Mr. Clayton) ask the
approbation of the President, before he made the motion at the last
session, which does him so much honor, to increase the appropriation for
fortifications half a million? How did the amendments proposed by the
Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) to the fortification bill of
the last session originate? I presume from the Committee of Finance, of
which he was the chairman. No doubt he conferred with the head of the
proper Executive Department, according to the custom in such cases; but
still these appropriations of more than four hundred thousand dollars
had their origin in that committee. It was a proper, a legitimate
source. Is then the ancient practice to be changed, and must it become a
standing rule that we are to appropriate no money without the orders or
the expressed wish of the Executive? I trust not.

The form of this appropriation has been objected to. I shall read it.

“_And be it further enacted_, That the sum of three millions of dollars
be, and the same is hereby, appropriated out of any money in the
Treasury not otherwise appropriated, to be expended, in whole or in
part, under the direction of the President of the United States, for the
military and naval service, including fortifications and ordnance, and
increase of the navy; Provided, such expenditures shall be rendered
necessary, for the defence of the country, prior to the next meeting of

It has been urged that to grant money in such general terms would have
been a violation of the Constitution. I do not understand that the
Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster), at the present session, has
distinctly placed it upon this ground. Other Senators have done so in
the strongest terms. Is there any thing in the Constitution which
touches the question? It simply declares that “no money shall be drawn
from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law.”
Whether these appropriations shall be general or specific, is left
entirely, as it ought to have been, to the discretion of Congress. I
admit that, _ex vi termini_, an appropriation of money must have a
reference to some object. But whether you refer to a class, or to an
individual, to the genus or to the species, your appropriation is
equally constitutional. The degree of specification necessary to make
the law valid never can become a constitutional question. The terms of
the instrument are as broad and as general as the English language can
make them. In this particular, as in almost every other, the framers of
the Constitution have manifested their wisdom and their foresight. Cases
may occur and have occurred in the history of this Government, demanding
the strictest secrecy; cases in which to specify, would be to defeat the
very object of the appropriation. A remarkable example of this kind
occurs in the administration of Mr. Jefferson, to which I shall
presently advert.

There are other cases in which from the very nature of things you cannot
specify the objects of an appropriation without the gift of prophecy. I
take the present to be a clear case of this description. The
appropriation was contingent; it was to be for the defence of the
country. How then could it have been specific? How could you foresee
when, or where, or how the attack of France would be made? Without this
foreknowledge, you could not designate when, or where, or how it would
become necessary to use the money. This must depend upon France, not
upon ourselves. She might be disposed to confine the contest merely to a
naval war. In that event it would become necessary to apply the whole
sum to secure us against naval attacks. She might threaten to invade
Louisiana or any other portion of the Union. The money would then be
required to call out the militia, and to march them and the regular army
to that point. Every thing must depend upon the movements of the enemy.
It might become necessary, in order most effectually to resist the
contemplated attack, to construct steam frigates or steam batteries, or
it might be deemed more proper to increase your ordinary navy and
complete and arm your fortifications. In a country where Congress cannot
be always in session, you must in times of danger, grant some
discretionary powers to the Executive. This should always be avoided
when it is possible, consistently with the safety of the country. But it
was wise, it was prudent in the framers of the Constitution, in order to
meet such cases, to declare in general terms that “no money shall be
drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by
law.” Not specific appropriations. The terms are general and
unrestricted. If the amendment had appropriated one million to
fortifications, the second million to the increase of the navy, and the
third to the purchase of ordnance and arms, it might have been found
that a great deal too much had been appropriated to one object, and a
great deal too little to another.

As a matter of expediency, as a means of limiting the discretion of
executive officers, I am decidedly friendly to specific appropriations,
whenever they can be made. I so declared in the debate at the last
session. I then expressed a wish that this appropriation had been more
specific; but upon reflection, I do not see how it could have been made
much more so, unless we had possessed the gift of prophecy. But the
Constitution has nothing to do with the question.

After all, I attached more value to specific appropriations before I had
examined this subject, than I do at the present moment. Still I admit
their importance. The clause which immediately follows in the
Constitution, is the true touchstone of responsibility. Although the
appropriation may be general; yet “a regular statement and account of
the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published
from time to time.” No matter in what language public money may be
granted to the Executive, in its expenditure, he is but the mere trustee
of the American people, and he must produce to them his vouchers for
every cent entrusted to his care. This constitutional provision holds
him to a strict responsibility, to a responsibility much more severe
than if Congress had been required in all cases to make specific

How Senators can create a dictator, and give him unlimited power over
the purse and the sword out of such an appropriation, I am at a loss to
conceive. It is a flight of imagination beyond my reach. What, sir, to
appropriate three millions for the military and naval defence of the
country in case it should become necessary during the recess of
Congress, and at its next meeting to compel the President to account for
the whole sum he may have expended; is this to create a dictator? Is
this to surrender our liberties into the hands of one man? And yet
gentlemen have contended for this proposition.

What has been the practice of the Government in regard to this subject?
During the period of our first two Presidents, appropriations were made
in the most general terms. No one then imagined that this was a
violation of the Constitution. When Mr. Jefferson came into power, this
practice was changed. In his message to Congress, of December 8th, 1801,
he says: “In our care too of the public contributions entrusted to our
discretion, it would be prudent to multiply barriers against their
dissipation, by appropriating specific sums to every specific purpose
_susceptible of definition_.” _Susceptible of definition._ Here is the
rule, and here is the exception. He treats the subject not as a
constitutional question, but as one of mere expediency. In little more
than two short years after this recommendation, Mr. Jefferson found it
was necessary to obtain an appropriation from Congress in the most
general terms. To have made it specific, would necessarily have defeated
its very object. Secrecy was necessary to success. Accordingly on the
26th February, 1803, Congress made the most extraordinary appropriation
in our annals. They granted to the President the sum of two millions of
dollars, “for the purpose of defraying any extraordinary expenses which
may be incurred in the intercourse between the United States and foreign
nations.” Here, sir, was a grant almost without any limit. It was
co-extensive with the whole world. Every nation on the face of the earth
was within the sphere of its operation. The President might have used
this money to subsidize foreign nations to destroy our liberties. That
he was utterly incapable of such conduct it is scarcely necessary to
observe. I do not know that I should have voted for such an unlimited
grant. Still, however, there was a responsibility to be found in his
obligation under the Constitution to account for its expenditure. Mr.
Jefferson never used any part of this appropriation. It had been
intended for the purchase of the sovereignty of New Orleans and of other
possessions in that quarter; but our treaty with France of the 30th
April, 1803, by which Louisiana was ceded to us, rendered it unnecessary
for him to draw any part of this money from the Treasury, under the act
of Congress, by which it had been granted.

Before the close of Mr. Jefferson’s second term, it was found that
specific appropriations in the extent to which they had been carried,
had become inconvenient. Congress often granted too much for one object,
and too little for another. This must necessarily be the case, because
we cannot say beforehand precisely how much shall be required for any
one purpose. On the 3d of March, 1809, an act was passed, which was
approved by Mr. Jefferson, containing the following provision:

“_Provided, nevertheless_, That, during the recess of Congress, the
President of the United States may, and he is hereby authorized, on the
application of the Secretary of the proper department, and not
otherwise, to direct, if in his opinion necessary for the public
service, that a portion of the moneys appropriated for a particular
branch of expenditure in that department, be applied to another branch
of expenditure in the same department; in which case, a special account
of the moneys thus transferred, and of their application, shall be laid
before Congress during the first week of their next ensuing session.”

Is this act constitutional? If it be so, there is an end of the
question. Has its constitutionality ever been doubted? It authorizes the
President to take the money appropriated by Congress for one special
object and apply it to another. The money destined for any one purpose
by an appropriation bill, may be diverted from that purpose by the
President, and be applied to any other purpose entirely different, with
no limitation whatever upon his discretion, except that money to be
expended by one of the Departments, either of War, or of the Navy, or of
the Treasury, could not be transferred to another Department.

It is not my intention to cite all the precedents bearing upon this
question. I shall merely advert to one other. On the 10th of March,
1812, Congress appropriated five hundred thousand dollars “for the
purpose of fortifying and defending the maritime frontier of the United
States.” This was in anticipation of the late war with Great Britain,
and is as general in its terms, and leaves as much to executive
discretion, as the proposed appropriation of three millions.

I trust, then, that I have established the positions that this
appropriation originated from a legitimate source—was necessary for the
defence and honor of the country, and violated no provision of the
constitution. If so, it ought to have received the approbation of the

When the fortification bill came back to the Senate, with this
appropriation attached to it by the House, the Senator from
Massachusetts (Mr. Webster), instantly moved that it should be rejected.
I feel no disposition to make any harsh observations in relation to that
gentleman. I think, however, that his remark, that if the enemy had been
thundering at the gates of the capitol, he would have moved to reject
the appropriation, was a most unfortunate one for himself. I consider it
nothing more than a bold figure of speech. I feel the most perfect
confidence that the gentleman is now willing to vote all the money which
may be necessary for the defence of the country.

Of the gentleman’s sincerity in opposing this appropriation, I did not
then, nor do I now entertain a doubt. He was ardent and impassioned in
his manner, and was evidently in a state of highly excited feeling.
Probably strong political prejudices may have influenced his judgment
without his knowledge. He thought that a high constitutional question
was involved in the amendment, and acted accordingly.

When the bill returned again to the Senate, after we had rejected, and
the House had insisted upon their amendment, the Senator immediately
moved that we should adhere to our rejection. I well recollect, sir,
that you (Mr. King, of Alabama, was in the chair), remarked at the time,
that this was a harsh motion, and should it prevail, would be well
calculated to exasperate the feelings of the House, and to defeat the
bill. You then observed that the proper motion would be to insist upon
our rejection, and ask a conference; and that the motion to adhere ought
not to be resorted to until all gentler measures had failed.

The Senator now claims the merit, and is anxious to sustain the
responsibility, of having moved to reject this appropriation. He also
asks, in mercy, that when the expunging process shall commence, his
vote, upon this occasion, may be spared from its operation.

For the sake of my country, and in undisguised sincerity of purpose, I
declare, for the sake of the gentleman, I am rejoiced that the
responsibility which he covets will, probably, not be so dreadful as we
had just reason to apprehend. Had France attacked us, or should she yet
attack us, in our present defenceless condition; should our cities be
exposed to pillage, or the blood of our citizens be shed, either upon
the land or the ocean; should our national character be dishonored,
tremendous, indeed, would be the responsibility of the gentleman. In
that event, he need not beseech us to spare his vote from the process of
expunging. You might as well attempt to expunge a sunbeam. That vote
will live for ever in the memory of the American people.

It was the vote of the Senate which gave the mortal blow to the
fortification bill. Had they passed this appropriation of three
millions, that bill would now have been a law. Where it died, it is
scarcely necessary to inquire. It was in mortal agony when the
consultation of six political doctors was held upon it at midnight, in
our conference chamber, and it probably breathed its last, on its way
from that chamber to the House of Representatives, for want of a quorum
in that body.

Its fate, in one respect, I hope may yet be of service to the country.
It ought to admonish us, if possible, to do all our legislative business
before midnight on the last day of the session. I never shall forget the
night I sat side by side, in the House of Representatives, with the
Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster), until the morning had nearly
dawned. The most important bills were continually returning from the
Senate with amendments. It would have been in the power of any one
member remaining in the House to have defeated any measure by merely
asking for a division. This would have shown that no quorum was present.
The members who still remained were worn down and exhausted, and were
thus rendered incapable of attending to their duties. It was legislation
without deliberation. I trust that this evil may be now corrected.
Should it not, I do not know that, at the conclusion of a Congress, my
conscience would be so tender as to prevent me from voting, as I have
done heretofore, after midnight on the third of March.

I have one other point to discuss. I shall now proceed to present to the
Senate the state of our relations with France, at the present moment,
for the purpose of proving that we ought to adopt the resolutions of the
Senator from Missouri (Mr. Benton), and grant all appropriations
necessary for the defence of the country. For this purpose, we must
again return to Paris. The President’s annual message of December, 1834,
arrived in that city on the 8th of January—a day propitious in our
annals. The attack upon the British troops on the night of the 23d of
December did not surprise them more than this message did the French
ministers. After the most patient endurance of wrongs for so many years,
they seemed to be astounded that the President should have asserted our
rights in such a bold and manly manner. That message, sir, will produce
the payment of the indemnity. What effect had it upon the character of
our country abroad? Let Mr. Livingston answer this question. In writing
to the Secretary of State, on the 11th January, 1835, he says: “It has
certainly raised us in the estimation of other powers, if I may judge
from the demeanor of their representatives here; and my opinion is, that
as soon as the first excitement subsides, it will operate favorably on
the councils of France.” There was not an American in Paris, on that
day, who, upon the perusal of this message, did not feel the flush of
honest pride of country mantling in his countenance.

On the 22d of November previous, Mr. Livingston was convinced that the
king was sincere in his intention of urging the execution of the treaty,
and then had no doubt of the sincerity of his cabinet. The Chambers
assembled on the 1st of December; and after an arduous struggle for two
days against the opposition, victory perched upon the banner of the
ministers. They were thus securely seated in their places. On the 6th of
December Mr. Livingston again writes, that “The conversations I have had
with the king and all the ministers convince me that now they are
perfectly in earnest, and united on the question of the treaty, and that
it will be urged with zeal and ability.” In a few short days, however, a
change came over their spirit. On the 22d December Mr. Livingston uses
the following language in writing to the Department of State: “My last
despatch (6th December) was written immediately after the vote of the
Chamber of Deputies had, as it was thought, secured a majority to the
administration; and it naturally excited hopes which that supposition
was calculated to inspire. I soon found, however, both from the tone of
the administration press and from the language of the king and all the
ministers with whom I conferred on the subject, that they were not
willing to put their popularity to the test on our question; it will not
be made one on the determination of which the ministers are willing to
risk their portfolios. The very next day, after the debate, the
ministerial gazette (_Des Debats_) declared that, satisfied with the
approbation the Chamber had given to their system, it was at perfect
liberty to exercise its discretion as to particular measures which do
not form _an essential part of that system_; and the communications I
subsequently had with the king and the ministers confirmed me in the
opinion that the law for executing our convention was to be considered
as one of those free questions. I combated this opinion, and asked
whether the faithful observance of treaties was not _an essential part
of their system_; and, if so, whether it did not come within their

The observance of treaties was not an essential part of their system!
Victorious and securely fixed, the ministers would not risk their places
in attempting to obtain from the Chambers the appropriation required to
carry our treaty into execution. It would not be made a cabinet
question. It was evident they had determined to pursue the same course
of delay and procrastination which they had previously pursued. But the
message arrived, and it roused them from their apathy. All doubts which
had existed upon the subject of making the payment of our indemnity a
cabinet question at once vanished. We have never heard of any such
since; and it was not until some months after that the French ministers
thought of annexing any condition to this payment.

On the 13th of January, Mr. Livingston had a conference with the Count
de Rigny. He then explained to him the nature of a message from our
President to Congress. He compared it to a family council under the
French law, and showed that it was a mere communication from one branch
of our Government to another, with which a foreign nation had no right
to interfere, and at which they ought not to take offence. They parted
on friendly terms, and again met on the same terms in the evening, at
the Austrian Ambassador’s. Mr. Livingston was, therefore, much
astonished when, about ten o’clock at night of the same day, he received
a note from the count, informing him that Mr. Serrurier, the French
minister at Washington, had been recalled, and that his passports were
at his service. This seems to have been a sudden determination of the
French cabinet.

Now, sir, upon the presumption that France had been insulted by the
message, this was the proper mode of resenting the insult. Promptly to
suspend all diplomatic intercourse with the nation who had menaced her
or questioned her honor, was a mode of redress worthy of her high and
chivalrous character. The next impulse of wounded pride would be
promptly to pay the debt which she owed, and release herself from every
pecuniary obligation to the nation which had done her this wrong. These
were the first determinations of the king’s ministers.

France has since been placed before the world, by her rulers, in the
most false position ever occupied by a brave and gallant nation. She
believes herself to be insulted, and what is the consequence? She
refuses to pay a debt now admitted to be just by all the branches of her
government. Her wounded feelings are estimated by dollars and cents, and
she withholds twenty-five millions of francs, due to a foreign nation,
to soothe her injured pride. How are the mighty fallen! Truly it may be
said, the days of chivalry are gone. Have the pride and the genius of
Napoleon left no traces of themselves under the constitutional monarchy?
In private life, if you are insulted by an individual to whom you are
indebted, what is the first impulse of a man of honor? To owe no
pecuniary obligation to the man who has wounded your feelings—to pay him
the debt instantly, and to demand reparation for the insult, or at the
least, to hold no friendly communication with him afterwards.

This course the king’s ministers had, at first, determined to pursue.
The reason why they abandoned it, I shall endeavor to explain hereafter.

Mr. Livingston, in his letter to Mr. Forsyth of the 14th January, 1835,
says: “The law, it is said, will be presented to-day, and I have very
little doubt that it will pass. The ministerial phalanx, reinforced by
those of the opposition (and they are not a few), who will not take the
responsibility of involving the country _in the difficulties which they
now see must ensue_, will be sufficient to carry the vote.”

Did Mr. Livingston intend to say France would be terrified into this
measure? By no means. But, in the intercourse between independent
States, there is a point at which diplomacy must end, and when a nation
must either abandon her rights, or determine to assert them by the
sword, or by such strong and decided measures as may eventually lead to
hostilities. When this point is reached, it becomes a serious and
alarming crisis for those to whom, on earth, the destiny of nations is
entrusted. When the one alternative is war, either immediate or
prospective, with all the miseries which follow in its train, and the
other the payment of a just debt to an ancient ally and firm friend, who
could doubt what must be the decision? Such was the position in which
France stood toward the United States. Not only justice, but policy
required the payment of the debt. In the event of war, or, of a
non-intercourse between the two nations, her wine-growers, her producers
and manufacturers of silk, and all her other manufacturing interests,
especially those of her southern provinces, would be vitally injured.
The payment of five millions of dollars would be but a drop in the
ocean, compared with the extent of their sufferings. In France, they
then believed that the time for diplomacy—the time for procrastination
had ended. The President’s message had opened their eyes to the
importance of the subject. It was under this impression that Mr.
Livingston predicted that the bill would pass the Chambers. That it
would have done so without any condition, had Congress responded to the
President’s message, I do not say, by authorizing reprisals, but by
manifesting a decided resolution to insist upon the execution of the
treaty, will, I think, appear abundantly evident hereafter.

The French ministry having manifested their sensibility to the supposed
insult, by recalling Mr. Serrurier, proceeded immediately to present the
bill for the execution of the treaty to the Chambers. In presenting it
on the 15th January, Mr. Humann, the minister of finance, addressed the
Chamber. His speech contains the views then entertained by the French
cabinet. I shall read an extract from it. He says:

“General Jackson has been in error respecting the extent of the
faculties conferred upon us, by the constitution of the State; but if he
has been mistaken as to the laws of our country, we will not fall into
the same error with regard to the institutions of the United States.
Now, the spirit and letter of those institutions authorize us to regard
the document above named [the message], as the expression of an opinion
merely personal, so long as that opinion has not received the sanction
of the other two branches of the American Government. The message is a
Government act, which is still incomplete, and should not lead to any of
these determinations, which France is in the habit of taking in reply to
a threat or insult.”

The French ministry, at that time, considered the President’s message,
merely his personal act, until it should receive the sanction of
Congress. They, then, had not dreamt of requiring an explanation of it,
as the only condition on which they would pay the money. This was an
after thought. The bill presented by Mr. Humann merely prescribed that
the payment should not be made, “until it shall have been ascertained
that the Government of the United States has done nothing to injure the
interests of France.” This bill was immediately referred to a committee,
of which Mr. Dumon was the chairman. On the 28th of March, he reported
it to the Chamber, with a provision, that the money should not be paid,
if the Government of the United States shall have done anything
“contrary to the dignities and the interests of France.” Still we hear
nothing of an explanation of the message being made a condition of the
payment of the money. The clauses in the bill to which I have adverted
were evidently inserted to meet the contingency of reprisals having been
sanctioned by Congress.

The debate upon the bill in the Chamber of Deputies commenced on the 9th
of April and terminated on the 18th. On that day General Valazé proposed
his amendment declaring that “the payments in execution of the present
law cannot be made until the French government shall have received
satisfactory explanations with regard to the message of the President of
the United States, dated the 2d December, 1834.”

The Duke de Broglie, the minister of foreign affairs, accepted this
amendment. I shall read his remarks on this occasion. He says: “The
intention of the government has always been conformable with the desire
expressed by the author of the amendment which is now before the
Chambers (_great agitation_), the government has always meant that
diplomatic relations should not be renewed with the Government of the
United States until it had received satisfactory explanations. The
government, therefore, does not repulse the amendment itself.” After
this, on the same day, the bill passed the Chamber by a vote of 289 to

Well might the Chamber be agitated at such an annunciation from the
minister of foreign affairs. Why this sudden change in the policy of the
French government? The answer is plain. Congress had adjourned on the
4th of March, without manifesting by their actions any disposition to
make the fulfilment of the treaty a serious question. Whilst our
Treasury was overflowing, they had refused to make any provision for the
defence of the country. They had left the whole coast of the United
States from Maine to Georgia in a defenceless condition. The effect upon
the French Chamber and the French people was such as might have been
anticipated. To prove this, I shall read an extract from a speech
delivered by Mr. Bignon, one of the Deputies, on the 10th April. I
select this from many others, because it contains nothing which can be
offensive to any Senator. It will be recollected that Mr. Bignon is the
gentleman who had been more instrumental in defeating the bill at the
previous session than any other member.

“President Jackson’s message has astonished them (the Americans) as well
as us; they have seen themselves thrown by it into a very hazardous
situation. What have they done? They are too circumspect and
clear-headed to express, by an official determination, their disapproval
of an act which, in reality, has not received their assent. Some of
them, for instance Mr. Adams, in the House of Representatives, may
indeed, from a politic patriotism, have even eulogized the President’s
energy, and obtained from the Chamber the expression that the treaty of
1831 must be complied with; but at a preceding sitting the same member
took pains to declare that he was not the defender of a system of war;
he proclaimed aloud that the resolution adopted by the Senate was an
expedient suggested by prudence, and he thought the House of
Representatives should pursue the same course. Gentlemen, the American
legislature had to resort to expedients to get out of the embarrassing
dilemma in which the President’s message had placed them; and they acted

From the conduct of Congress, the French Chambers were under the
impression that the people of the United States would not adopt any
energetic measures to compel the fulfilment of the treaty. They had no
idea that the nation would sustain the President in his efforts. They
had reason to believe that he was almost left alone. They appear ever
since to have acted under this delusion. According to the impression of
Mr. Bignon, the nation was astounded at President Jackson’s message.
This is the true reason why the ministry accepted the amendment
requiring President Jackson to make an explanation.

The best mode of obtaining justice from the powerful as well as from the
weak—the best mode of elevating this nation to the lofty position she is
destined to occupy among the nations of the earth—the best mode of
preventing war and preserving peace, is to stand up firmly for our
rights. The assertion of these rights, not by threats, but boldly,
manfully, and frankly, is the surest method of obtaining justice and
respect from other nations.

At so early a day as the 29th of January, Mr. Livingston had addressed a
note to the Duke de Broglie, distinctly disavowing any intention on the
part of the President, by his message, to intimidate France, or to
charge the French government with bad faith. On the 25th of April, in
another letter to the duke, he communicated to him the President’s
official approbation of his former note. In this last letter, he
reiterates his explanations, and assures the duke that, whilst the
President intended to use no menace, nor to charge any breach of faith
against the king’s government, he never could and never would make any
explanation of his message on the demand of a foreign government. This
letter would, of itself, be sufficient to give its author a high rank
not only among the diplomatists, but the statesmen of his country. The
sentiments it contains were unanimously approved by the American people.
Although it was received by the duke before the bill had been acted upon
by the Chamber of Peers, it produced no effect upon the French ministry.
The bill was finally passed and obtained the sanction of the king in a
form requiring the President to explain his message before the money
could be paid.

This state of fact distinctly raises the important question, whether a
President of the United States can be questioned by a foreign government
for anything contained in a message to Congress. The principle that he
cannot, has already been firmly established by the practice of our
Government. Even in our intercourse with France, in former times, the
question has been settled. This principle results from the very nature
of our institutions. It must ever be maintained inviolate. Reverse it,
and you destroy the independent existence of this Republic, so far as
its intercourse with foreign nations is concerned.

The Constitution requires that the President of the United States
“shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information of the state
of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he
shall judge necessary and expedient.” This information is intended not
only for the use of Congress, but of the people. They are the source of
all power, and from their impulse all legitimate legislation must
proceed. Both Congress and the people must be informed of the state of
our foreign relations by the executive. If the President cannot speak
freely to them upon this subject; if he cannot give them all the
information which may be necessary to enable them to act, except under
the penalty of offending a foreign government, the Constitution of the
United States, to this extent, becomes a dead letter. The maintenance of
this principle is an indispensable condition of our existence, under the
present form of Government.

If we are engaged in any controversy with a foreign nation, it is not
only the right, but it is the imperative duty, of the President to
communicate the facts to Congress, however much they may operate against
that nation. Can we then, for a single moment, permit a foreign
government to demand an apology from the President for performing one of
his highest duties to the people of the United States?

Let us put an extreme case. Suppose the President, after giving a
history of our wrongs to Congress, recommends not merely a resort to
reprisals, but to war, against another nation. Shall this nation, which
has inflicted upon us injury, be permitted to change her position, to
cancel all our claims for justice, and to insist that we have become the
aggressors, because a resort to arms has been recommended? I feel the
most perfect confidence that not a single Senator will ever consent to
yield this position to France or to any other nation. I need not labor
this question. The subject has been placed in the clearest and strongest
light by Mr. Livingston, in his letter to the Duke de Broglie of the
25th of April.

If any possible exemption to the rule could be tolerated, surely this
would not present the case. The Duke de Broglie himself, in his letter
to Mr. Pageot, is constrained to admit that there is not a single
offensive sentence respecting France in the message; but yet he
complains of the general effect of the whole.

With a full knowledge, then, that the President could not, would not,
dare not explain his message, on the demand of any foreign government,
the Duke de Broglie addresses his famous letter to the chargé d’affaires
at Washington. It bears date at Paris on the 17th June, 1835. Before I
proceed to make any remarks upon this letter, I wish to bring its
character distinctly into view of the Senate. It commences by declaring,
in opposition to the principle that the President of the United States
cannot be called upon by a foreign government to make explanations of a
message to Congress, that, “by virtue of a clause inserted in the
article first, by the Chamber of Deputies, the French government must
defer making the payments agreed upon, _until that of the United States
shall have explained the true meaning and real purport of divers
passages inserted by the President of the Union in his message at the
opening of the last session of Congress, and at which all France, at the
first aspect, was justly offended_.”

It proceeds still further, and announces that, “the government, having
discovered nothing in that clause at variance with its own sentiments,
or the course it had intended to pursue, the project of law thus amended
on the 18th April, by the Chamber of Deputies, was carried on the 27th,
to the Chamber of Peers.”

The duke, after having thus distinctly stated that an explanation of the
message was required as a condition of the payment of the money, and
after presenting a historical sketch of the controversy, then
controverts, at considerable length, the position which had been
maintained by Mr. Livingston, that the President could not be questioned
by a foreign government for anything contained in a message to Congress.
He afterwards asserts, in the broadest terms, that the explanations
which had been voluntarily made by Mr. Livingston, and sanctioned by the
President, were not sufficient.

In suggesting what would satisfy France, he says, “we do not here
contend about this or that phrase, this or that allegation, this or that
expression; we contend about the intention itself, which has dictated
that part of the message.” And again, speaking of Mr. Livingston’s
letters of the 29th January and 25th April, he adds:

“You will easily conceive, sir, and the Cabinet of Washington will, we
think, understand it also, that such phrases incidentally inserted in
documents, the purport and tenor of which are purely polemical,
surrounded, in some measure, by details of a controversy, which is
besides not always free from bitterness, cannot dispel sufficiently the
impression produced by the perusal of the message, nor strike the mind
_as would the same idea expressed in terms single, positive, direct, and
unaccompanied by any recrimination concerning facts or incidents no
longer of any importance_. Such is the motive which, among many others,
has placed the French government in the impossibility of acceding to the
wish expressed by Mr. Livingston, towards the conclusion of his note of
the 29th of April, by declaring (to the Chamber of Peers probably) that
previous explanations given by the minister of the United States, and
subsequently approved by the President, had satisfied it.”

After having thus announced the kind of explanation which would be
expected, he states, that the French government “in pausing then for the
present, and waiting for the fulfilment of those engagements to be
claimed, (the engagements of the treaty) and expecting those to be
claimed _in terms consistent with the regard due to it_, it is not
afraid of being accused, nor France, which it represents, of being
accused of appreciating national honor by any number of millions, which
it could withhold as a compensation for any injury offered to it.” The
letter concludes by authorizing Mr. Pageot to read it to Mr. Forsyth,
_and if he be desirous, to let him take a copy of it_.

It is impossible to peruse this letter, able and ingenious as it is,
without at once perceiving that it asks what the President can never
grant, without violating the principle that France has no right to
demand an explanation of his message.

On the 11th of September, Mr. Pageot, the French chargé d’affaires,
called at the Department of State and read this despatch to Mr. Forsyth.
The latter did not think proper to ask a copy of it; and for this he has
been loudly condemned. In my judgment, his conduct was perfectly

No objection can be made to this indirect mode of communication with the
Government of the United States adopted by the duke. It is sanctioned by
diplomatic usage. The rules, however, which govern it, are clearly
deducible from its very nature. It is a mere diplomatic feeler thrown
out to ascertain the views of another government. The duke himself
justly observes that its object is “to avoid the irritation which might
involuntarily rise from an exchange of contradictory notes in a direct

Had Mr. Forsyth asked and received a copy of this despatch, he must have
given it an answer. Respect for the source from which it proceeded would
have demanded this at his hands. If this answer could have been nothing
but a direct refusal to comply with the suggestions of the French
government, then he was correct in not requesting leave to take a copy
of it. Why was this the case? Because it would have added to the
difficulties of the question, already sufficiently numerous, and would
have involved him in a direct controversy, which it is the very object
of this mode of communication to prevent. This is the reason why it was
left by the despatch itself, within his own option whether to request a
copy or not; and his refusal to make this request ought to have given no
offence to the French government.

Now, sir, what answer could he have given to this communication, but a
direct refusal? Had not the duke been fully apprised before he wrote
this despatch, that it could receive no other answer? It required
explanations as a condition of the payment of the money, which he had
been informed the President could never make. On this ground, then, and
for the very purpose of avoiding controversy, the conduct of Mr. Forsyth
is correct.

But there is another reason to justify his conduct, which, I think, must
carry conviction to every mind. The President proposed, in his annual
message, voluntarily to declare, that he had never intended to menace
France, or to impeach the faith of the French government. This he has
since done in the strongest terms. As offence was taken by the French
government at the language of a former message, it was believed that
such a declaration in a subsequent message would be, as it ought to be,
entirely satisfactory to France. Had Mr. Forsyth taken a copy of this
despatch, and placed it among the archives of the Government, how could
the President have made, consistently with his principles, the
disclaimer which he has done? A demand for an explanation would thus
have been interposed by a foreign government, which would have compelled
him to remain silent. The refusal of Mr. Forsyth to ask a copy of the
despatch, left the controversy in its old condition; and, so far as our
government was concerned, left this letter from the Duke de Broglie to
Mr. Pageot as if it never had been written. The President, therefore,
remained at perfect liberty to say what he thought proper in his

If this letter had proposed any reasonable terms of reconciling our
difficulties with France—if it had laid any foundation on which a
rational hope might have rested that it would become the means of
producing a result so desirable, it would have been the duty of Mr.
Forsyth to request a copy. Upon much reflection, however, I must declare
that I cannot imagine what good could have resulted from it in any
contingency; and it might have done much evil. Had it prevented the
President from speaking as he has done in his last message, concerning
France, it might have involved the country in a much more serious
misunderstanding with that power than existed at the present moment.

I should be glad to say no more of this despatch, if I could do so
consistently with a sense of duty. Mr. Pageot did not rest satisfied
with Mr. Forsyth’s omission to request a copy of it, as he ought to have
done. He deemed it proper to attempt to force that upon him which the
despatch itself had left entirely to his own discretion. Accordingly, on
the 1st of December last, he enclosed him a copy. On the third, Mr.
Forsyth returned it with a polite refusal. On the fifth, Mr. Pageot
again addressed Mr. Forsyth, and avowed that his intention in
communicating the document, “was to make known the real disposition of
my government to the President of the United States, _and through him to
Congress and the American people_.” Thus it is manifest that his purpose
was to make the President the instrument by which he might appeal to the
American people against the American Government. After he had failed in
this effort, what is his next resort? He publishes this despatch to the
people of the United States through the medium of our public journals. I
now hold in my hand the number of the _Courier des Etats Unis_ of the
20th of January, a journal published in New York, which contains the
original despatch in the French language. In a subsequent number of the
same journal, of the 24th January, there is an editorial article on the
subject of the President’s special message to Congress, and of this
despatch, of a part of which I shall give my own translation. It is as

“Our last number contained the despatch of M. the Duke de Broglie to the
chargé d’affaires of France at Washington, concerning which the Senate
had demanded such explanations as were in the power of the executive. On
the same day, the late message of the President of the United States,
which had been expected with so much impatience and anxiety, arrived at
New York. To this document are annexed many letters of the Duke de
Broglie, of Mr. Forsyth, and of Mr. Pageot, which will be read with
great interest. We give a simple analysis of the least important, _and
an exact copy of those which have been written originally in French_.”

“The public attention was first occupied with the letter of the Minister
of Foreign Affairs, which was known here some hours before the message
of the President of the United States; and if some journals of the
Government have found this publication unseasonable, _made by the
legation of France according to the orders which it had received_,
nobody, at least, has been able to deny the talent, the moderation, and
the force of reasoning which have presided at its preparation.”

By whom was the legation of France ordered to publish this despatch? Who
alone had the power of issuing such an order? The French government.
Against this positive language, I can still scarcely believe that the
Duke de Broglie has given an order so highly reprehensible.

The publication of this despatch was an outrage upon all diplomatic
usage. It ought to have been intended as the harbinger of peace, and not
of renewed controversy. From its very nature it was secret and
confidential. If not received, it ought to have been as if it never had
existed. Upon any other principle, it would aggravate the controversy
which such communications are always intended to prevent. It has now
been diverted from its natural purpose by the French legation, and has
been made the subject of an appeal by France to the American people
against their own Government. It has thus greatly increased the
difficulties between the two countries. It has proclaimed to the world
that France requires from the President of the United States, an apology
of his message as an indispensable condition of the execution of our
treaty. It has, therefore, rendered it much more difficult for her to

The true meaning of this despatch is now rendered manifest to the most
sceptical. The Duke de Broglie, in his interview with Mr. Barton, on the
12th October last, has placed his own construction upon it. The apology
which he then required from the President contains his own commentary
upon this despatch. I need not read the history of that interview to the
Senate, to prove that I am correct in this assertion. It must be fresh
in the recollection of every Senator.

Considered as an appeal to the American people against their own
Government, the publication of this despatch deserves still more serious
consideration. Foreign influence, in all ages, has been the bane of
republics. It has destroyed nearly all of them which have ever existed.
We ought to resist its approaches on every occasion. In the very infancy
of our existence as a nation, a similar attempt was made by France. It
was then repulsed as became a nation of freemen. The present attempt
will have the same effect on the American people. It will render them
still more firm and still more united in the cause of their country.

Of Mr. Barton’s recall, I need say but little. It was the direct
consequence of the refusal of France to execute the treaty, without an
apology from the President of his message.

Diplomatic relations between the two countries had been first
interrupted by France. On this subject, hear what the Count de Rigny
said in his exposé read to the Chamber of Peers, on the 27th April last,
on presenting the bill for the execution of our treaty. I give my own

“You know the measure which the government of the king adopted at the
very instant when the message, presented by the President of the Union,
at the opening of the last Congress, arrived in Europe. You know that
since that time, a similar measure had been adopted by President Jackson
himself. The two ministers, accredited near the two governments, are
reciprocally recalled; the effect of this double recall is at this
moment, if not to interrupt, in all respects, the diplomatic
communications between the two States, at least to interrupt them in
what regards the treaty of the 4th July. If these relations ought to be
renewed, and we doubt not that they ought, it is not for us hereafter to
take the initiative.”

On the 5th of June, the President had officially sanctioned the
explanations which had been made to the French government by Mr.
Livingston, in his letter of the 25th of April, as he had previously
sanctioned those which had been made by the same gentleman, in his note
of the 29th of January. These were considered by the President, amply
sufficient to satisfy the susceptible feelings of France. In order to
give them full time to produce their effect, and to afford the French
ministry an ample opportunity for reflection, he delayed sending any
orders to demand the money secured by the treaty until the middle of
December. On the 14th of that month, Mr. Barton was instructed to call
upon the Duke de Broglie, and request to be informed what were the
intentions of the French government, in relation to the payment of the
money secured by the treaty. He expected these instructions on the 20th
of October. The special message has communicated to us the result. “We
will pay the money,” says the Duke de Broglie, “when _the Government of
the United States is ready on its part, to declare to us, by addressing
its claim to us officially in writing, that it regrets the
misunderstanding which has arisen between the two countries; that this
misunderstanding is founded on a mistake; that it never entered into its
intention to call in question the good faith of the French government,
nor to take a menacing attitude towards France_;” and he adds, “_if the
Government of the United States does_ _not give this assurance, we shall
be obliged to think that this misunderstanding is not the result of an

Is there any American so utterly lost to those generous feelings which
love of country should inspire, as to purchase five millions with the
loss of national honor? Who, for these or any number of millions, would
see the venerable man, now at the head of our Government, bowing at the
footstool of the throne of Louis Philippe, and like a child, prepared to
say its lesson, repeating this degrading apology? First, perish the five
millions,—perish a thousand times the amount. The man whose bosom has
been so often bared in the defence of his country will never submit to
such degrading terms. His motto has always been, death before dishonor.

Why, then, it may be asked, have I expressed a hope, a belief, that this
unfortunate controversy will be amicably terminated when the two nations
are now directly at issue? I will tell you why. This has been called a
mere question of etiquette; and such it is, so far as France is
concerned. She has already received every explanation which the most
jealous susceptibility ought to demand. These have been voluntarily
tendered to her.

Since the date of the Duke de Broglie’s letter to Mr. Pageot of the 17th
June, we have received from the President of the United States his
general message at the commencement of the session, and his special
message on French affairs. Both these documents disclaim, in the
strongest terms, any intention to menace France, or to impute bad faith
to the French government by the message of December, 1834. Viewing the
subject in this light; considering that at the interview with Mr.
Barton, the duke could not have anticipated what would be the tone of
these documents, I now entertain a strong hope that the French
government have already reconsidered their determination. If a mediation
has been proposed and accepted, I cannot entertain a doubt as to what
will be the opinion of the mediator. He ought to say to France, you have
already received all the explanations, and these have been voluntarily
accorded, which the United States can make without national degradation.
With these you ought to be satisfied. With you, it is a mere question of
etiquette. All the disclaimers which you ought to desire have already
been made by the President of the United States. The only question with
you now is not one of substance, but merely whether these explanations
are in proper form. But in regard to the United States, the question is
far different. What is with you mere etiquette, is a question of life
and death to them. Let the President of the United States make the
apology which you have dictated,—let him once admit the right of a
foreign government to question his messages to Congress, and to demand
explanations of any language at which they may choose to take offence,
and their independent existence as a Government, to that extent, is
virtually destroyed.

We must remember that France may yield with honor; _we_ never can,
without disgrace. Will she yield? That is the question. I confess I
should have entertained a stronger belief that she would, had she not
published the duke’s letter to Mr. Pageot as an appeal to the American
people. She must still believe that the people of this country are
divided in opinion in regard to the firm maintenance of their rights. In
this she will find herself entirely mistaken. But should Congress, at
the present session, refuse to sustain the President by adopting
measures of defence; should the precedent of the last session be
followed for the present year, then I shall entertain the most gloomy
forebodings. The Father of his country has informed us that the best
mode of preserving peace is to be prepared for war. I firmly believe,
therefore, that a unanimous vote of the Senate in favor of the
resolutions now before them, to follow to Europe the acceptance of the
mediation, would, almost to a certainty, render it successful. It would
be an act of the soundest policy as well as of the highest patriotism.
It would prove, not that we intend to menace France, because such an
attempt would be ridiculous; but that the American people are unanimous
in the assertion of their rights, and have resolved to prepare for the
worst. A French fleet is now hovering upon our coasts; and shall we sit
still, with an overflowing Treasury, and leave our country defenceless?
This will never be said with truth of the American Congress.

If war should come, which God forbid,—if France should still persist in
her effort to degrade the American people in the person of their Chief
Magistrate,—we may appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and
look forward with confidence to victory from that Being in whose hands
is the destiny of nations.

Previous to the delivery of this speech, the President had, on the 15th
of January, recommended to Congress a partial non-intercourse with
France. But in a short time the government of Great Britain made an
offer of mediation, which was accepted, and the whole difficulty with
France was amicably adjusted.


Footnote 47:

  General Jackson’s first term extended from March 4th, 1829, to March
  4th, 1833. His second term ended March 4th, 1837.

Footnote 48:

  Upon this vexed question of instruction there is perhaps no more
  important distinction than that which was drawn by Mr. Webster in his
  celebrated speech of March 7, 1850: namely, that where a State has an
  interest of her own, not adverse to the general interest of the
  country, a Senator is bound to follow the direction which he receives
  from the legislature; but if the question be one which affects her
  interests, and at the same time affects equally the interests of all
  the other States, the Senator is not bound to obey the will of the
  State, because he is in the position of an arbitrator or referee. The
  first proposition seems evident enough, but of course it embraces none
  but a limited class of questions. It is in the far more numerous cases
  which fall under the second proposition that the difficulty inherent
  in the doctrine of instruction arises. Mr. Buchanan, it will be seen
  hereafter, consistently acted upon the view with which he began his
  senatorial career.

Footnote 49:

  General Jackson himself continued, during his Presidency and after his
  retirement, in his correspondence to apply to his party the term

Footnote 50:

  John Sargent of Pennsylvania was the Whig candidate for the
  Vice-Presidency along with Mr. Clay, and he received the same
  electoral vote.

Footnote 51:

  The secret history of such collisions between governments not
  infrequently throws an unexpected light upon their public aspects.
  When General Jackson was preparing his annual message of December,
  1834, some of his friends in Washington were very anxious that it
  should not be too peremptory on the subject of the French payment. At
  their request, Mr. Justice Catron, of the Supreme Court, waited upon
  the President, and advised a moderate tone. The President took from
  his drawer an autograph letter from King Louis Philippe, and handed it
  to the judge to read. In this letter the king represented that a war
  between the United States and France would be especially disastrous to
  the wine-growing districts, and that the interests of those provinces
  could be relied upon to oppose it; but that it was necessary that the
  alternative of war should be distinctly presented as certain to follow
  a final refusal of the Chambers to make the payment demanded. The king
  therefore urged General Jackson to adopt a very decided tone in his
  message, being confident that, if he did so, the opposition would give
  way and war would be avoided.

  Another anecdote concerning this message was communicated to the
  writer from an entirely authentic source. After the message had been
  written, some of its expressions were softened by a member of the
  Cabinet, before the MS. was sent to the printer, without the
  President’s knowledge. When it was in type, the confidential
  proof-reader of the _Globe_ office took the proof-sheets to the
  President; and he afterwards, said that he never before knew what
  profane swearing was. General Jackson promptly restored his own
  language to the proof-sheets.

Footnote 52:

  Mr. Ticknor, writing from Paris, February, 1836, said: “One thing,
  however, has done us much honor. General Jackson’s message, as far as
  France is concerned,—for they know nothing about the rest of it,—has
  been applauded to the skies. The day it arrived I happened to dine
  with the Russian minister here, in a party of about thirty persons,
  and I assure you it seemed to me as if nine-and-twenty of them came up
  to me with congratulations. I was really made to feel awkward at last;
  but this has been the tone all over the Continent, where they have
  been confoundedly afraid we might begin a war which would end no
  prophecy could tell where.” (_Life, &c., of George Ticknor_, I. 480.)
  Count Pozzo di Borgo’s company would not be likely to be composed of
  persons sympathizing with the French opposition.


                              CHAPTER XII.


Among the exciting topics of this period, there was no ground on which
the Whigs attacked the administration of General Jackson with greater
severity than that which related to his removal of executive officers.
In the remarkable protest, which he sent to the Senate in 1834, against
the censure which that body had passed upon his executive acts, and
especially his removal of one Secretary of the Treasury who would not,
and the appointment of another who would, remove the public deposits
from the Bank of the United States, he had claimed a general executive
power of supervision and control over all executive officers. He had
made many other removals from office, which were complained of as
dictated by purely political motives; and in the session of 1834–5, a
bill was introduced into the Senate, one of the objects of which was to
require the President, when making a nomination to fill a vacancy
occasioned by the removal of any officer, to state the fact of such
removal, and to render reasons for it. On this bill, Mr. Buchanan, on
the 17th of February, 1835, made the following speech, which is of value
now, because it relates to a topic that has not yet ceased to be a
matter of controversy:

Mr. PRESIDENT: It is with extreme diffidence and reluctance that I rise
to address you on the present occasion. It was my intention to suffer
this bill to pass, contenting myself with a simple vote in the negative.
This course I should have pursued, had the constitutional question been
fully discussed by any gentleman on our side of the Senate. As this has
not been done, I feel it to be a duty which I owe to those who sent me
here, as well as to myself, to express my opinion on the subject, and
the reasons on which that opinion is founded.

The present bill presents a most important question concerning our
fundamental institutions. It attacks a construction of the Constitution
of the United States which has been considered settled for almost half a
century. Has the President, under the Constitution, the power of
removing executive officers? If any question can ever be put at rest in
this country, this, emphatically, ought to be considered that one. It
was solemnly settled in 1789 by the first Congress of the United States.
Of whom was that Congress composed? Of the men who had sustained the
toils and dangers of the revolutionary war—of the men who sat in the
convention which framed the Constitution, and who passed from that
convention into the first Congress. These men, who laid the foundations
of our Republic broad and deep, most solemnly and deliberately decided,
that to the President, and to him alone, belonged the power of removal.
This was not at a moment when the country was convulsed by party spirit.
Very far from it. The Fathers of the Republic were then occupied in
putting the Government in motion, and in establishing such principles as
might preserve the liberties and promote the best interests of the
American people for ages. In what condition are we, at the present
moment, to rejudge the judgment of those men and reverse their solemn
decision? Is not party spirit raging throughout the land? Are there not
high party feelings in this body? Are we in a condition calmly and
deliberately, without prejudice and without passion, to review and to
condemn their judgment?

Why, sir, even if there were no authority in the Constitution for the
power of removal, the decision of this body, at this time, would have
but little influence among the people. They would compare the
calmness—the self-possession—the freedom from political excitement of
the sages who established the precedent, with the party violence and the
high political feeling of the Senate at the present day; and the weight
of authority would be all against us.

The debate in the first Congress was very long and very able. Every
argument which patriotism and ingenuity could suggest was exhausted. The
question was at length decided in the House of Representatives on the
22d June, 1789. On the yeas and nays, thirty voted in affirmance of the
President’s power of removal, and eighteen against it;—a large majority,
considering the comparatively small number of which the House was then

The question arose on the bill to establish the Department of Foreign
Affairs. It contained a clause declaring the Secretary of State “to be
removable from office by the President of the United States.” From this
clause it might have been inferred that the power of removal was
intended to be conferred upon the President by Congress, and not
acknowledged to exist in him under the Constitution. To remove every
difficulty,—to place doubt at defiance in all future time, the words “to
be removable from office by the President of the United States” were
stricken from the bill, and this right was expressly acknowledged to
exist independently of all legislation. By the second section of the
bill, which became a law on the 27th July, 1789, it is declared that
“the Chief Clerk in the Department of Foreign Affairs, _whenever the
principal officer shall be removed from office by the President of the
United States_, or in any other case of vacancy, shall, during such
vacancy, have the charge and custody of all records, books, and papers,
appertaining to the said Department.” Here then is a clear, strong,
distinct recognition by the House of Representatives of the President’s
power of removal, not by virtue of law, but under the Constitution. This
phraseology was carefully adopted for the purpose of putting this very
question at rest forever, so far as Congress could effect this purpose.

The bill, having passed the House of Representatives, was sent to the
Senate for their concurrence. The power of removal was there solemnly
considered. This was the very body which, according to the doctrine of
gentlemen, has a right to control this power; and yet they affirmed the
principle that it was vested in the President, and in him alone. It is
true that the question was determined by the casting vote of Mr.
Adams,—then the Vice-President: but the act was approved by General
Washington, and the power has ever since been exercised without dispute
by him and his successors in office, until after the election of the
present President. Washington, the elder Adams, Jefferson, Madison,
Monroe, and the younger Adams removed whom they pleased from office; but
after the accession of Jackson, the existence of this power is denied.
We are now required to believe that all which former Presidents have
done was wrong;—that the first Congress were entirely mistaken in their
construction of the Constitution:—and that the President does not
possess the power of removal except with the concurrence of the Senate.

If ever a question has occurred in the history of any country which
ought to be considered settled, this is that one. A solemn decision at
first, adopted in practice afterwards by all branches of the Government,
for five and forty years, makes the precedent one of almost irresistible

What then have we a right to expect on our side of the House from the
opposition? Not merely that they shall prove it to be a doubtful
question, but they shall present a case so clear as to render it
manifest that all which has been done has been without authority, and
all the removals which have ever been made, have been in violation of
the Constitution. The burden rests entirely upon the gentlemen, and a
ponderous load they have to sustain.

But, sir, if the question were entirely new, if it never had been
decided either by precedent or by practice, I think it may be made
abundantly clear, that the strength of the argument is greatly on the
side of those who maintain the power.

What is the nature of the Constitution of the United States? The powers
which it devolves upon the Government, are divided into three distinct
classes, the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. To preserve
the liberties of any country, it is necessary that these three branches
of the government should be kept distinct and separate as far as
possible. When they are all united in the same person—this is the very
definition of despotism. As you approximate to this state of things, in
the same proportion you advance towards arbitrary power. These are
axioms which cannot—which will not be denied.

Doubtless for wise purposes, the framers of our Constitution have in a
very few excepted cases, blended these powers together. The executive,
by his veto, has a control over our legislation. The Senate, although a
branch of the legislature, exercises judicial power in cases of
impeachment. The President nominates, “and by and with the advice and
consent of the Senate,” appoints all officers, except those of an
inferior nature, the appointment of which may be vested by Congress “in
the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of

Now, sir, my position is, that when the Constitution of the United
States, in a special case, has conferred upon the Senate, which is
essentially a branch of the legislature, a participation in executive
power, you cannot by construction extend this power beyond the plain
terms of the grant. It is an exception from the general rule pervading
the whole instrument. Appointment to office is in the strictest sense an
executive power. But it is expressly declared that the assent of the
Senate shall be necessary to the exercise of this power on the part of
the President. The grant to the Senate is special. In this particular
case, it is an abstraction from the general executive powers granted
under the Constitution to the President. According to the maxim of the
common law, _expressio unius est exclusio alterius_—it follows
conclusively that what has not been given is withheld, and remains in
that branch of the Government which is the appropriate depository of
executive power. The exception proves the rule. And the grant of
executive power to the Senate is confined to appointments to office, and
to them alone. This necessarily excludes other executive powers. It
cannot, therefore, be contended with any force, as the gentleman from
Massachusetts (Mr. Webster) has contended, that because the consent of
the Senate is made necessary by the Constitution to appointments of
officers,—that, therefore, by implication, it is necessary for their
removal. Besides, these two things are very distinct in their nature, as
I shall hereafter have occasion to demonstrate.

But to proceed with the argument. I shall contend that the sole power of
removing executive officers is vested in the President by the
Constitution. First, from a correct construction of the instrument
itself; and second, even if that were doubtful, from the great danger
resulting to the public interest from any other construction.

The Constitution declares in express language that “the executive power
shall be vested in a President of the United States.” Under these
general terms, I shall, once for all, disclaim the idea of attempting to
derive any portion of the power of the Chief Magistrate from any other
fountain than the Constitution itself. I therefore entirely repel the
imputation, so far as I am concerned, which would invest him with
executive powers derived from the prerogatives of the kings or emperors
of the old world. Such arguments are entirely out of the question.

The Constitution also declares that “he shall take care that the laws be
faithfully executed.” These two clauses of the Constitution confer the
executive power on the President, and define his duties. Is, then, the
removal from office an executive power? If it be so, there is an end of
the question; because the Constitution nowhere declares that the Senate,
or any other human tribunal, shall participate in the exercise of this
power. It will not be contended but that the power of removal exists,
and must exist, somewhere. Where else can it exist but in the executive,
on whom the Constitution imposes the obligation of taking care that the
laws shall be faithfully executed? It will not be pretended that the
power of removal is either of a legislative or judicial character. From
its very nature, it belongs to the executive. In case he discovers that
an officer is violating his trust—that instead of executing the laws,
his conduct is in direct opposition to their requisition, is it not,
strictly speaking, an executive power to arrest him in his career, by
removing him from office? How could the President execute the trust
confided to him, if he were destitute of this authority? If he possessed
it not, he would be compelled to witness the executive officers
violating the laws of Congress without the power of preventing it.

On this subject, it is impossible for me to advance anything new. It was
exhausted by Mr. Madison, in the debate of 1789, in the House of
Representatives. I am confident the Senate will indulge me whilst I read
two extracts from his speeches on that occasion, delivered on the 16th
and 17th June, 1789. The first was delivered on the 16th June, 1789, and
is as follows:

“By a strict examination of the Constitution, on what appears to be its
true principles, and considering the great departments of the Government
in the relation they have to each other, I have my doubts whether we are
not absolutely tied down to the construction declared in the bill. In
the first section of the first article, it is said that all legislative
powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United
States. In the second article, it is affirmed that the executive power
shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. In the
third article, it is declared that the judicial power of the United
States shall be vested in one Supreme Court; and in such inferior courts
as Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish.

“I suppose it will be readily admitted, that so far as the Constitution
has separated the powers of these great departments, it would be
improper to combine them together; and so far as it has left any
particular department in the entire possession of the powers incident to
that department, I conceive we ought not to qualify them further than
they are qualified by the Constitution. The legislative powers are
vested in Congress, and are to be exercised by them uncontrolled by any
other department, except the Constitution has qualified it otherwise.
The Constitution has qualified the legislative power, by authorizing the
President to object to any act it may pass, requiring, in this case,
two-thirds of both Houses to concur in making a law; but still the
absolute legislative power is vested in the Congress with this
qualification alone.

“The Constitution affirms, that the executive power shall be vested in
the President. Are there exceptions to this proposition? Yes, there are.
The Constitution says, that in appointing to office, the Senate shall be
associated with the President, unless in case of inferior officers, when
the law shall otherwise direct. Have we a right to extend this
exception? I believe not. If the Constitution had invested all executive
power in the President, I venture to assert that the Legislature has no
right to diminish or modify his executive authority.”


“The doctrine, however, which seems to stand most in opposition to the
principles I contend for, is, that the power to annul an appointment is,
in the nature of things, incidental to the power which makes the
appointment. I agree that if nothing more was said in the Constitution
than that the President, by and with the advice and consent of the
Senate, should appoint to office, there would be great force in saying
that the power of removal resulted by a natural implication from the
power of appointing. But there is another part of the Constitution, no
less explicit than the one on which the gentleman’s doctrine is founded;
it is that part which declares that the executive power shall be vested
in a President of the United States.

“The association of the Senate with the President in exercising that
particular function, is an exception to this general rule, and
exceptions to general rules, I conceive, are ever to be taken strictly.
But there is another part of the Constitution which inclines, in my
judgment, to favor the construction I put upon it; the President is
required to take care that the laws be faithfully executed. If the duty
to see the laws faithfully executed be required at the hands of the
Executive Magistrate, it would seem that it was generally intended he
should have that species of power which is necessary to accomplish that
end. Now, if the officer, when once appointed, is not to depend upon the
President for his official existence, but upon a distinct body, (for
where there are two negatives required, either can prevent the removal,)
I confess I do not see how the President can take care that the laws be
faithfully executed. It is true, by a circuitous operation, he may
obtain an impeachment, and even without this it is possible he may
obtain the concurrence of the Senate for the purpose of displacing an
officer; but would this give that species of control to the Executive
Magistrate which seems to be required by the Constitution? I own, if my
opinion was not contrary to that entertained by what I suppose to be the
minority on this question, I should be doubtful of being mistaken, when
I discovered how inconsistent that construction would make the
Constitution with itself. I can hardly bring myself to imagine the
wisdom of the convention who framed the Constitution contemplated such

But, sir, if doubts could arise on the language of the Constitution
itself, then it would become proper, for the purpose of ascertaining the
true meaning of the instrument, to resort to arguments _ab
inconvenienti_. The framers of the Constitution never intended it to
mean what would defeat the very purposes which it was intended to
accomplish. I think I can prove that to deprive the President of the
power of removal would be fatal to the best interests of the country.

And first, the Senate cannot always be in session. I thank Heaven for
that. We must separate and attend to our ordinary business. It is
necessary for a healthy political constitution that we should breathe
the fresh and pure air of the country. The political excitement would
rise too high if it were not cooled off in this manner. The American
people never will consent, and never ought to consent, that our sessions
shall become perpetual. The framers of the Constitution never intended
that this should be the case. But once establish the principle that the
Senate must consent to removals, as well as to appointments, and this
consequence is inevitable.

A foreign minister in a remote part of the world is pursuing a course,
dangerous to the best interests, and ruinous to the character of the
country. He is disgracing us abroad, and endangering the public peace.
He has been intrusted with an important negotiation, and is betraying
his trust. He has become corrupt, or is entirely incompetent. This
information arrives at Washington, three or four days after the
adjournment of Congress on the 3d of March. What is to be done? Is the
President to be entirely powerless until the succeeding December, when
the Senate may meet again? Shall he be obliged to wait until the
mischief is entirely consummated—until the country is ruined—before he
can recall the corrupt or wicked minister? Or will any gentleman contend
that upon every occasion, when a removal from office becomes necessary,
he shall call the Senators from their homes throughout this widely
extended republic? And yet, this is the inevitable consequence of the
position contended for by gentlemen. Could the framers of the
Constitution ever have intended such an absurdity? This argument was
also adverted to by Mr. Madison.

But again, there are great numbers of disbursing officers scattered over
the Union. Information is received during the recess of the Senate, that
one of them in Arkansas or at the Rocky Mountains, has been guilty of
peculation, and is wasting the public money. Must the President fold his
arms, and suffer him to proceed in his fraudulent course, until the next
meeting of the Senate? The truth is, that the President cannot execute
the laws of the Union, without this power of removal.

But cases still stronger may be presented. The heads of departments are
the confidential advisers of the President. It is chiefly through their
agency that he must conduct the great operations of Government. Without
a direct control over them, it would be impossible for him to take care
that the laws shall be faithfully executed. Suppose that one of them,
during the recess of the Senate, violates his instructions, refuses to
hold any intercourse with the President, and pursues a career which he
believes to be in opposition to the Constitution, the laws and the best
interests of the country. Shall the executive arm be paralyzed; and in
such a case, must he patiently submit to all these evils until the
Senate can be convened? In time of war, the country might be ruined by a
corrupt Secretary of War, before the Senate could be assembled.

It is not my intention, on this occasion, to discuss the question of the
removal of the deposits from the Bank of the United States. I merely
wish to present it as a forcible illustration of my argument. Suppose
the late Secretary of the Treasury had determined to remove the
deposits, and the President had believed this measure would be as
ruinous to the country as the friends of the bank apprehended. If the
Secretary, notwithstanding the remonstrances of the President, had
proceeded to issue the order for their removal, what should we have
heard from those who were the loudest in their denunciations against the
Executive, if he had said, my arms are tied, I have no power to arrest
the act—the deposits must be removed, because I cannot remove my
Secretary? Here the evil would have been done before the Senate could
possibly have been assembled. I am indebted to the speech of the Senator
from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun), at the last session, for this
illustration. The truth is, view the subject in any light you may, the
power of removal is in its nature inseparable from the executive power.

I have been presenting the inconveniences which would arise, during the
recess of the Senate, from the want of this power in the executive. But
suppose the Senate to be always in session, would this remove every
difficulty? By no means. Confer upon the Senate the power of rejecting
removals, and you make the executive, in the language of the debate of
1789, a double-headed monster. That power on whom is devolved the
execution of your laws, must be able to remove a corrupt or an
incompetent agent from office, or he cannot perform his duties. The
Senate may, without inconvenience, and with very great advantage to the
country, participate in appointments; but when the man is once in
office, the President must necessarily possess the power of turning him
out in case he does not perform his duties. This power ought not to
depend upon the will of the Senate; for that body have nothing to do
with the execution of the laws.

If the power contended for were vested in the Senate, what would be the
consequences? Still more dangerous, if possible, than any which I have
yet depicted. The cases in which removals are necessary, must rapidly
increase with the number of our officers and our rapidly extending
population. If the President must assign reasons to the Senate for his
removals, according to the provisions of this bill, or if the Senate
must participate in these removals, as well as in appointments, it
necessarily follows, that these reasons must be investigated. Witnesses
must be examined to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the charges made
against the officer sought to be removed. The case must be tried
judicially. Time must be consumed to the prejudice of our other duties.
The legislative functions of the Senate must thus become impaired, and
feelings excited between co-ordinate branches of the Government
calculated to produce a most injurious effect upon the country. In this
state of things, the case might readily occur which was anticipated by
Mr. Madison in 1789. A majority of the Senate might even keep one of the
heads of department in office against the will of the President. Whether
they would have done so or not last winter, in the case of the Secretary
of the Treasury, I shall not pretend to determine.

If this power were conferred upon the Senate, it would interfere with
our judicial functions to a dangerous and alarming extent. The removal
of a high officer of the Government is recommended by the President to
the Senate, because of official misconduct. The charges are tried before
the Senate. From the very nature of the question it must become in fact
a judicial investigation. The Senate determine either that he shall
remain in his office or that he shall be removed. In either case, the
House of Representatives, possessing the sole power of impeachment under
the Constitution, determine to exercise it against this officer. But the
Senate have, by their previous proceedings, utterly disqualified
themselves from giving to the accused an impartial trial. They have
already decided upon his guilt or his innocence. Instead of proceeding
to the trial, unbiased by favor or by prejudice, their minds are
inflamed, their judgments are biased, and they come to the investigation
with the feelings of partisans, rather than those of judges. The House
of Representatives would have a just right to complain loudly against
the exercise of this power by the Senate. We should thus disqualify
ourselves from judging impartially in cases between the people of the
United States and the high officers of the Government.

I think I have successfully established the position that no two things
can in their nature be more distinct than the power of appointment and
that of removal. If this be the case, then what becomes of the argument
of the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster)? It rested entirely
upon the principle, that these two powers were so identical in their
nature, that because the Senate, under the Constitution, have the
express power of advising and consenting to appointments, that,
therefore, by implication, they must possess the power of advising and
consenting to removals. The inference is without foundation.

The truth is, that the more we discuss this question, we shall have the
greater reason to admire the wisdom of the Constitution, and of those
enlightened and patriotic men who placed that construction upon it in
the beginning, which I shall venture to predict never will be disturbed
by the American people. The Senate, from the nature of the body, are
fully competent to assist the President in appointments. It would change
their character altogether, and paralyze the executive arm of the
Government, if they were to usurp the power of interfering in removals
from office. Let the Constitution and the construction of it by its
founders, in this particular, be perpetual!

It has been objected that the President, by this construction, is too
far removed from responsibility in the exercise of this power. But he is
responsible to the American people, whose servant he is, in this as in
all other cases. Unless you palsy the executive arm, and render it
powerless to do good, lest it may do evil, you cannot support the
doctrine which has been urged. You must vest some discretion; you must
repose some confidence in the executive, or the wheels of Government
must stand still. Should he abuse his power, he is liable to the censure
of public opinion; and, in flagrant cases, he may be impeached.

It was contended in the first Congress, and the same argument has been
urged upon the present occasion, that the power of removal was not
recognized by the Constitution—that it was a case omitted, and that,
therefore, by implication, it belongs to Congress. This argument was
fully met and successfully refuted in 1789. If this principle were
established, the executive power would have no necessary control over
executive officers. Congress might confer the power of removal upon the
Senate alone, or upon the House of Representatives alone, or upon both
conjointly, without any participation of the President. This
Government—the admiration of the world, would present the solecism of an
executive without any control over executive agents, except what might
be granted to him by the legislature. We are not placed in this
unfortunate predicament. The President, under the Constitution, has the
power of removal. It is a constitutional power, not to be controlled by
the legislature. It is a power equally sovereign in its nature with that
of legislation itself. He is a co-ordinate branch of the Government, and
has the same right to exercise his discretion in removals from office,
that Congress possess in regard to the enactment of laws.

This brings me to consider the constitutionality of the third section of
the bill now depending before us. It provides “that in all nominations
made by the President to the Senate, to fill vacancies occasioned by
removal from office, the fact of the removal shall be stated to the
Senate at the time that the nomination is made, _with a statement of the
reasons for such removal_.”

Whence do we derive our authority to demand his reasons? If the
Constitution has conferred upon him the power of removal, as I think I
have clearly shown, is it not absolute in its nature and entirely free
from the control of Congress? Is he not as independent in the exercise
of this power as Congress in the exercise of any power conferred upon
them by the Constitution? Would he not have the same authority to demand
from us our reasons for rejecting a nomination, as we possess to call
upon him for his reasons for making a removal? Might he not say, I am
answerable to the American people, and to them alone, for the exercise
of this power, in the same manner that the Senate is for the exercise of
any power conferred upon them by the Constitution?

With all the deference which I feel for the opinions of the Senator from
Tennessee (Mr. White), I think he has arrived at the conclusion that the
third section of this bill is constitutional, by blending things
together which are in their nature entirely distinct. He asks, is it not
in the power of Congress to create the office, to define its duties, and
to change and vary these duties at pleasure? Granted. May they not, if
they believe the office unnecessary, repeal the law, and must not the
officer fall with it? Granted. These are legislative powers, clearly
conferred upon Congress by the Constitution. It is then asked, may
Congress not prescribe it as the duty of these officers to give reasons
for their conduct? Certainly they may. And why? Because they are the
creatures of Congress—they are called into existence by Congress—and
they will cease to exist at the pleasure of Congress. Is this the
condition of the executive, who is a co-ordinate branch of the
Government, and who is answerable for his conduct, not to Congress, but
to the people of the United States. What right have we to demand reasons
from the servant of another as to how he performs his duties? To his own
master, which, in this particular, is the American people, and to them
alone, he is responsible. If Congress can command him to give reasons to
the Senate for his removals, the Senate may judge of the validity of
these reasons, and condemn them if they think proper. The executive of
the country is thus rendered subordinate to the Senate;—a position in
which the Constitution of the country never intended to place him. In my
opinion, this bill as strongly negatives the constitutional power of the
President to remove from office, without the concurrence of the Senate,
as if it were so declared in express language. For this reason I shall
vote against it.

In the next session, which commenced in December, 1836, Mr. Buchanan
delivered a speech which may perhaps be regarded as the ablest of his
efforts in the Senate. It related to a topic that had long been attended
with intense political excitement. President Jackson’s removal of the
public deposits from the Bank of the United States furnished to the Whig
opponents of his administration a means of attack, of which they were
not slow to avail themselves. The powerful opposition, which at the time
of that occurrence controlled the proceedings of the Senate, was led by
Mr. Clay, who was the defeated Whig candidate for the Presidency at the
election of 1832. Swaying his party in the Senate with an imperious
will, and enforcing his determinations by a fascinating eloquence, Mr.
Clay, on the 28th of March, 1834, carried a resolution, which was
inscribed on the journal of the Senate in the following words: “That the
President, in the late executive proceedings, in relation to the public
revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by
the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.” On the 3d of
March, 1835, a resolution introduced by Col. Benton, of Missouri,
ordering Mr. Clay’s resolution to be “expunged” from the journal, came
up for consideration. The word “expunged” was stricken out by a vote in
which the mover and other friends of the administration concurred, so
that some other less objectionable phrase might be substituted. But as
soon as this word was stricken out, Mr. Webster moved to lay the
resolution on the table, giving notice that he would not withdraw his
motion “for friend or foe.” The motion was not debatable, and as the
Whigs still had a majority, it was carried by a party vote. The
Democratic Senators then determined that the word “expunged” should
never be again surrendered. At the next session they had a majority; and
Col. Benton’s resolution then came up, in a form which directed that Mr.
Clay’s resolution of 1834 be expunged from the journal of the Senate, by
drawing black lines around it, and writing across its face the words,
“Expunged by order of the Senate, this —— day of —— in the year of our
Lord 1837.” It was upon this proposal, in reply to an impassioned speech
by Mr. Clay, that Mr. Buchanan, on the 16th of January, 1837, addressed
the Senate.

There is one praise to be accorded to this speech, which, considering
the party character of the struggle, is not a small one. Mr. Buchanan
separated what was personal and partisan in this controversy from the
serious questions involved; and covering the whole field of argument
upon the really important topics in a temperate and courteous but firm
discussion, he placed his side of the debate upon its true merits. He
began by contending that the censure, which the Senate had in 1834
passed upon the President, was unjust, because he had violated no law in
ordering the Secretary of the Treasury to remove the public deposits
from the Bank. He then argued that the Senate had committed an
infraction of the Constitution, by recording upon its journal an
accusation that the President had been guilty of an offence for which he
might be impeached, and for which it would be the duty of the Senate to
try him on articles of impeachment, if the House of Representatives
should ever proceed against him in that manner. In thus prejudging the
case, by a resolution of mere naked censure, adopted in its legislative
capacity, the Senate had rendered itself incompetent to perform its high
judicial function. He concluded his argument by a very ingenious and
elaborate criticism of the word “expunge,” arguing that there was a real
and solid distinction between a physical obliteration of a record,
making it impossible thereafter to be read, and such an annulment of its
legal existence as was now proposed, and which, by leaving it in a
condition to be read, would nevertheless deprive it of all force. It
must be confessed that this was a very finely drawn distinction; but it
was supported by no inconsiderable acuteness and force, and with great
fairness of reasoning. Col. Benton’s resolution was adopted by a party
vote, and was immediately carried out.[53]

The following is a full report of Mr. Buchanan’s speech in support of
the Expunging Resolution:

MR. PRESIDENT:—After the able and eloquent display of the Senator from
Kentucky, (Mr. Clay) who has just resumed his seat, after having so long
enchained the attention of his audience, it might be the dictate of
prudence for me to remain silent. But I feel too deeply my
responsibility as an American Senator, not to make the attempt to place
before the Senate and the country the reasons which, in my opinion, will
justify the vote which I intend to give this day.

A more grave and solemn question has rarely, if ever, been submitted to
the Senate of the United States, than the one now under discussion. This
Senate is now called upon to review its own decision, to rejudge its own
justice, and to annihilate its own sentence, pronounced against the
co-ordinate executive branch of this Government. On the 28th of March,
1834, the American Senate, in the face of the American people, in the
face of the whole world, by a solemn resolution, pronounced the
President of the United States to be a violator of the Constitution of
his country—of that Constitution which he had solemnly sworn “to
preserve, protect, and defend.” Whether we consider the exalted
character of the tribunal which pronounced this condemnation, or the
illustrious object against which it was directed, we ought to feel
deeply impressed with the high and lasting importance of the present
proceeding. It is in fact, if not in form, the trial of the Senate, for
having unjustly and unconstitutionally tried and condemned the
President; and their accusers are the American people. In this cause I
am one of the judges. In some respects, it is a painful position for me
to occupy. It is vain, however, to express unavailing regrets. I must,
and shall, firmly and sternly, do my duty; although in the performance
of it I may wound the feelings of gentlemen whom I respect and esteem. I
shall proceed no farther than the occasion demands, and will, therefore,

Who was the President of the United States, against whom this sentence
has been pronounced? Andrew Jackson—a name which every American mother,
after the party strife which agitates us for the present moment shall
have passed away, will, during all the generations which this Republic
is destined to endure, teach her infant to lisp with that of the
venerated name of Washington. The one was the founder, the other the
preserver, of the liberties of his country.

If President Jackson has been guilty of violating the Constitution of
the United States, let impartial justice take its course. I admit that
it is no justification for such a crime, that his long life has been
more distinguished by acts of disinterested patriotism than that of any
American citizen now living. It is no justification that the honesty of
his heart and the purity of his intentions have become proverbial, even
amongst his political enemies. It is no justification that in the hour
of danger, and in the day of battle, he has been his country’s shield.
If he has been guilty, let his name be “damned to everlasting fame,”
with those of Cæsar and of Napoleon.

If, on the other hand, he is pure and immaculate from the charge, let us
be swift to do him justice, and to blot out the foul stigma which the
Senate has placed upon his character. If we are not, he may go down to
the grave in doubt as to what may be the final judgment of his country.
In any event, he must soon retire to the shades of private life. Shall
we, then, suffer his official term to expire, without first doing him
justice? It may be said of me, as it has already been said of other
Senators, that I am one of the gross adulators of the President. But,
sir, I have never said thus much of him whilst he was in the meridian of
his power. Now that his political sun is nearly set, I feel myself at
liberty to pour forth my grateful feelings, as an American citizen, to a
man who has done so much for his country. I have never, for myself,
either directly or indirectly, solicited office at his hands; and my
character must greatly change, if I should ever do so from any of his
successors. If I should bestow upon him the meed of my poor praise, it
springs from an impulse far different from that which has been
attributed to the majority on this floor. I speak as an independent
freeman and American Senator; and I feel proud now to have the
opportunity of raising my voice in his defence.

On the 28th day of March, 1834, the Senate of the United States
resolved, “that the President, in the late executive proceedings, in
relation to the public revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and
power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of

In discussing this subject, I shall undertake to prove, first, that this
resolution is unjust; secondly, that it is unconstitutional; and in the
last place, that it ought to be expunged from our journals, in the
manner proposed by the Senator from Missouri (Mr. Benton).

First, then, it is unjust. On this branch of the subject I had intended
to confine myself to a bare expression of my own decided opinion. This
point has been so often and so ably discussed, that it is impossible for
me to cast any new light upon it. But as it is my intention to follow
the footsteps of the Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Clay) wherever they may
lead, I must again tread the ground which has been so often trodden. As
the Senator, however, has confined himself to a mere passing reference
to the topics which this head presents, I shall, in this particular,
follow his example.

Although the resolution condemning the President is vague and general in
its terms, yet we all know that it was founded upon his removal of the
public deposits from the Bank of the United States. The Senator from
Kentucky has contended that this act was a violation of law. And why?
Because, says he, it is well known that the public money was secure in
that institution; and by its charter the public deposits could not be
removed from it, unless under a just apprehension that they were in
danger. Now, sir, I admit that if the President had no right to remove
these deposits, except for the sole reason that their safety was in
danger, the Senator has established his position. But what is the fact?
Was the Government thus restricted by the terms of the bank charter? I
answer, no. Such a limitation is nowhere to be found in it. Let me read
the sixteenth section, which is the only one relating to the subject. It
enacts, “that the deposits of the money of the United States, in places
in which the said bank and branches thereof may be established, shall be
made in said bank or branches thereof, _unless the Secretary of the
Treasury shall at any other time otherwise order and direct_; in which
case the Secretary of the Treasury shall immediately lay before
Congress, if in session, and, if not, immediately after the commencement
of the next session, the reasons of such order or direction.”

Is not the authority thus conferred upon the Secretary of the Treasury
as broad and as ample as the English language will admit? Where is the
limitation, where the restriction? One might have supposed from the
argument of the Senator from Kentucky, that the charter restricted the
Secretary of the Treasury from removing the deposits, unless he believed
them to be insecure in the Bank of the United States; but the language
of the law itself completely refutes his argument. They were to remain
in the Bank of the United States, “_unless the Secretary of the Treasury
shall at any time otherwise order and direct_.”

The sole limitation upon the discretion of that officer was his
immediate and direct responsibility to Congress. To us he was bound to
render his reasons for removing the deposits. We, and we alone, are
constituted the judges as to the sufficiency of these reasons.

It would be an easy task to prove that the authors of the bank charter
acted wisely in not limiting the discretion of the Secretary of the
Treasury over the deposits to the single case of their apprehended
insecurity. We may imagine many other reasons which would have rendered
their removal both wise and expedient. But I forbear; especially as the
case now before the Senate presents as striking an illustration of this
proposition as I could possibly imagine. Upon what principle, then, do I
justify the removal of the deposits?

The Bank of the United States had determined to apply for a recharter at
the session of Congress immediately preceding the last Presidential
election. Preparatory to this application, and whilst it was pending, in
the short space of sixteen months, it had increased its loans more than
twenty-eight million dollars. They rose from forty-two millions to
seventy millions between the last of December, 1830, and the first of
May, 1832. Whilst this boasted regulator of the currency was thus
expanding its discounts, all the local banks followed the example. The
impulse of self-interest urged them to pursue this course. A delusive
prosperity was thus spread over the land. Money everywhere became
plenty. The bank was regarded as the beneficent parent, who was pouring
her money out into the laps of her children. She thought herself wise
and provident in thus rendering herself popular. The recharter passed
both Houses of Congress by triumphant majorities. But then came “the
frost, the killing frost.” It was not so easy to propitiate “the Old
Roman.” Although he well knew the power and influence which the bank
could exert against him at the then approaching Presidential election,
he cast such considerations to the winds. He vetoed the bill, and in the
most solemn manner placed himself for trial upon this question before
the American people.

From that moment the faith of many of his former friends began to grow
cold. The bank openly took the field against his re-election. It
expended large sums in subsidizing editors, and in circulating
pamphlets, and papers, and speeches, throughout the Union, calculated to
inflame the public mind against the President. I merely glance at these

Let us pause for a single moment to consider the consequences of such
conduct. What right had the bank, as a corporation, to enter the arena
of politics for the purpose of defending itself, and attacking the
President? Whilst I freely admit that each individual stockholder
possessed the same rights, in this respect, as every other American
citizen, I pray you to consider what a dangerous precedent the bank has
thus established. Our banks now number nearly a thousand, and our other
chartered institutions are almost innumerable. If all these corporations
are to be justified in using their corporate funds for the purpose of
influencing elections; of elevating their political friends, and
crushing their political foes, our condition is truly deplorable. We
shall thus introduce into the State a new, a dangerous, and an alarming
power, the effects of which no man can anticipate. Watchful jealousy is
the price which a free people must ever pay for their liberties; and
this jealousy should be Argus-eyed in watching the political movements
of corporations.

After the bank had been defeated in the Presidential election, it
adopted a new course of policy. What it had been unable to accomplish by
making money plenty, it determined it would wrest from the sufferings of
the people by making money scarce. Pressure and panic then became its
weapons; and with these it was determined, if possible, to extort a
recharter from the American people. It commenced this warfare upon the
interests of the country about the first of August, 1833. In two short
months it decreased its loans more than four millions of dollars, whilst
the deposits of the Government with it had increased, during the same
period, two millions and a quarter. I speak in round numbers. It was
then in the act of reducing its discounts at the rate of two millions of
dollars per month.

The State banks had expanded their loans with the former expansion of
the Bank of the United States. It now became necessary to contract them.
The severest pressure began to be felt everywhere. Had the Bank of the
United States been permitted a short time longer to proceed in this
course, fortified as it was with the millions of the Government which it
held on deposit, a scene of almost universal bankruptcy and insolvency
must have been presented in our commercial cities. It thus became
absolutely necessary for the President either to deprive the bank of the
public deposits, as the only means of protecting the State banks, and
through them the people, from these impending evils, or calmly to look
on and see it spreading ruin throughout the land. It was necessary for
him to adopt this policy for the purpose of preventing a universal
derangement of the currency, a general sacrifice of property, and, as an
inevitable consequence, the recharter of this institution.

By the removal of the deposits, he struck a blow against the bank from
which it has never since recovered. This was the club of Hercules with
which he slew the hydra. This was the master-stroke by which he
prostrated what a large majority of the American people believe to have
been a corrupt and a corrupting institution. For this he is not only
justified, but deserves the eternal gratitude of his country. For this
the Senate have condemned him; but the people of the United States have
hailed him as a deliverer.

It has been said by the Senator from Kentucky, that the President, by
removing the deposits from the Bank of the United States, united in his
own hands the power of the purse of the nation with that of the sword. I
think it is not difficult to answer this argument. What was to become of
the public money, in case it had been removed from the Bank of the
United States, under its charter, for the cause which the Senator
himself deems justifiable? Why, sir, it would then have been immediately
remitted to the guardianship of those laws under which it had been
protected before the Bank of the United States was called into
existence. Such was the present case. In regard to this point, no matter
whether the cause of removal were sufficient or not, the moment the
deposits were actually removed they became subject to the pre-existing
laws, and not to the arbitrary will of the President.

The Senator from Kentucky has contended that the President violated the
Constitution and the laws, by dismissing Mr. Duane from office because
he would not remove the deposits, and by appointing Mr. Taney to
accomplish this purpose. I shall not discuss at any length the power of
removal. It is now too late in the day to question it. That the
executive possesses this power was decided by the first Congress. It has
often since been discussed and decided in the same manner, and it has
been exercised by every President of the United States. The President is
bound by the Constitution to “take care that the laws be faithfully
executed.” If he cannot remove his executive officers, it is impossible
that he can perform this duty. Every inferior officer might set up for
himself; might violate the laws of the country, and put him at defiance,
whilst he would remain perfectly powerless. He could not arrest their
career. A foreign minister might be betraying and disgracing the nation
abroad, without any power to recall him until the next meeting of the
Senate. This construction of the Constitution involves so many dangers
and so many absurdities, that it could not be maintained for a moment,
even if there had not been a constant practice against it of almost half
a century.

But it is contended by the Senator that the Secretary of the Treasury is
a sort of independent power in the State, and is released from the
control of the executive. And why? Simply because he is directed by law
to make his annual report to Congress and not to the President. If this
position be correct, then it necessarily follows that the executive is
released from the obligation of taking care that the numerous and
important acts of Congress regulating the fiscal concerns of the country
shall be faithfully executed. The Secretary of the Treasury is thus made
independent of his control. What would be the position of this officer
under such a construction of the Constitution and laws, it would be very
difficult to decide. And this wonderful transformation of his character
has arisen from the mere circumstance that Congress have by law directed
him to make an annual report to them! No, sir; the executive is
responsible to Congress for the faithful execution of all the laws; and
if the present or any other President should prove faithless to his high
trust, the present Senate, notwithstanding all which has been said,
would be as ready as their predecessors to inflict condign punishment
upon him, in the mode pointed out by the Constitution.

I have now arrived at the great question of the constitutional power of
the Senate to adopt the resolution of March, 1834. It is my firm
conviction that the Senate possesses no such power; and it is now my
purpose to establish this position. The decision on this point must
depend upon a true answer to the question: Does this resolution contain
any impeachable charge against the President? If it does, I trust I
shall demonstrate that the Senate violated its constitutional duty in
proceeding to condemn him in this manner. I shall again read the

“_Resolved_, That the President, in the late executive proceedings in
relation to the public revenue, has assumed upon himself authority and
power not conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of

This language is brief and comprehensive. It comes at once to the point.
It bears a striking impress of the character of the Senator from
Kentucky. Does it charge an impeachable offence against the President?

The fourth section of the second article of the Constitution declares
that the “President, Vice-President, and all civil officers of the
United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and
conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

It has been contended that this condemnatory resolution contains no
impeachable offence, because it charges no criminal intention against
the President; and I admit that it does not attribute to him any corrupt
motive in express words. Is this sufficient to convince the judgment of
any impartial man that none was intended? Let us, for a few moments,
examine this proposition. If it be well founded, the Senate may for ever
hereafter usurp the power of trying, condemning, and destroying any
officer of the Government, without affording him the slightest
opportunity of being heard in his defence. They may abuse their power,
and prostrate any object of their vengeance. It seems we have now made
the discovery, that the Senate are authorized to exert this tremendous
power—that they may thus assume to themselves the office both of accuser
and of judge, provided the indictment contains no express allegation of
a criminal intention. The President, or any officer of the Government,
may be denounced by the Senate as a violator of the Constitution of his
country,—as derelict in the performance of his public duties, provided
there is no express imputation of an improper motive. The characters of
men whose reputation is dearer to them than their lives may thus be
destroyed. They may be held up to public execration by the omission of a
few formal words. The condemnation of the Senate carries with it such a
moral power, that perhaps there is no man in the United States, except
Andrew Jackson, who could have resisted its force. No, sir; such an
argument can never command conviction. That which we have no power to do
directly, we can never accomplish by indirect means. We cannot by
resolution convict a man of an impeachable offence, merely because we
may omit the formal words of an impeachment. We must regard the
substance of things, and not the mere form.

But again. Although a criminal intention be not charged, in so many
words, by this resolution, yet its language, even without the attendant
circumstances, clearly conveys this meaning. The President is charged
with having “assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by
the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.” “Assumed upon
himself.” What is the plain palpable meaning of this phrase connected
with what precedes and follows? Is it not “to arrogate,” “to claim or
seize unjustly.” These are two of the first meanings of the word assume,
according to the lexicographers. To assume upon one’s self is a mode of
expression which is rarely taken in a good sense. As it is used here, I
ask if any man of plain common understanding, after reading this
resolution, would ever arrive at the conclusion that any Senator voted
for it under the impression that the President was innocent of any
improper intention, and that he violated the Constitution from mere
mistake and from pure motives? The common sense of mankind revolts at
the idea. How can it be contended, for a single moment, that you can
denounce the President as a man who had “assumed upon himself” the power
of violating the laws and the Constitution of his country, and in the
same breath declare that you had not the least intention to criminate
him, and that your language was altogether inoffensive. The two
propositions are manifestly inconsistent.

But I go one step further. If we were sitting as a court of impeachment,
and the bare proposition were established to our satisfaction that the
President had, in violation of the Constitution and the laws, withdrawn
the public revenue of the country from the depository to whose charge
Congress had committed it, and assumed the control over it himself, we
would be bound to convict him of a high official misdemeanor. Under such
circumstances, we should be bound to infer a criminal intention from
this illegal and unconstitutional act. Criminal justice could never be
administered,—society could not exist, if the tribunals of the country
should not attribute evil motives to illegal and unconstitutional
conduct. Omniscience alone can examine the heart. When poor frail man is
placed in the judgment-seat, he must infer the intentions of the accused
from his actions. That “the tree is known by its fruits” is an axiom
which we have derived from the fountain of all truth. Does a poor,
naked, hungry wretch, at this inclement season of the year, take from my
pocket a single dollar; the law infers a criminal intent, and he must be
convicted and punished as a thief, though he may have been actuated by
no other motive than that of saving his wife and his children from
starvation. And shall a different rule be applied to the President of
the United States? Shall it be said of a man elevated to the highest
station on earth, for his wisdom, his integrity, and his virtues, with
all his constitutional advisers around him, when he violates the
Constitution of his country and usurps the control over its entire
revenue, that he may successfully defend himself by declaring he had
done this deed without any criminal intention? No, sir; in such a case,
above all others, the criminal intention must be inferred from the
unconstitutional exercise of high and dangerous powers. The safety of
the Republic demands that the President of the United States should
never shield himself behind such flimsy pretexts. This resolution,
therefore, although it may not have assumed the form of an article of
impeachment, possesses all the substance.

It was my fate some years ago to have assisted as a manager, in behalf
of the House of Representatives, in the trial of an impeachment before
this body. It then became my duty to examine all the precedents in such
cases which had occurred under our Government, since the adoption of the
Federal Constitution. On that occasion, I found one which has a strong
bearing upon this question. I refer to the case of Judge Pickering. He
was tried and condemned by the Senate upon all the four articles
exhibited against him; although the first three contained no other
charge than that of making decisions contrary to law, in a cause
involving a mere question of property, and then refusing to grant the
party injured an appeal from his decision, to which he was entitled.
From the clear violation of law in this case, the Senate must have
inferred an impure and improper motive.

If any thing further were wanting to prove that the resolution of the
Senate contained a criminal and impeachable charge against the
President, it might be demonstrated from all the circumstances attending
the transaction. Whilst this resolution was in progress through the
Senate, the Bank of the United States was employed in producing panic
and pressure throughout the land. Much actual suffering was experienced
by the people; and where that did not exist, they dreaded unknown and
awful calamities. Confidence between man and man was at an end. There
was a fearful pause in the business of the country. We were then engaged
in the most violent party conflict recorded in our annals. To use the
language of the Senator from Kentucky, we were in the midst of a
revolution. On the one side it was contended that the power over the
purse of the nation had been usurped by the President; that in his own
person he had united this power with that of the sword, and that the
liberties of the people were gone, unless he could be arrested in his
mad career. On the other hand, the friends of the President maintained
that the removal of the deposits from the Bank of the United States was
an act of stern justice to the people; that it was strictly legal and
constitutional; that he was impelled to it by the highest and purest
principles of patriotism; and that it was the only means of prostrating
an institution which threatened the destruction of our dearest rights
and liberties. During this terrific conflict public indignation was
aroused to such a degree, that the President received a great number of
anonymous letters, threatening him with assassination unless he should
restore the deposits.

It was during the pendency of this conflict throughout the country, that
the Senator from Kentucky thought proper, on the 26th December, 1833, to
present his condemnatory resolution to the Senate. And here, sir, permit
me to say that I do not believe there was any corrupt connection between
any Senator upon this floor and the Bank of the United States. But it
was at this inauspicious moment that the resolution was introduced. How
was it supported by the Senator from Kentucky? He told us that a
revolution had already commenced. He told us that by the 3d of March,
1837, if the progress of innovation should continue, there would be
scarcely a vestige remaining of the Government and policy as they had
existed prior to the 3d March, 1829. That in a term of years a little
more than that which was required to establish our liberties, the
Government would be transformed into an elective monarchy—the worst of
all forms of government. He compared the measure adopted by General
Jackson with the conduct of the usurping Cæsar, who, after he had
overrun Italy in sixty days, and conquered the liberties of his native
country, terrified the Tribune Metellus, who guarded the treasury of the
Roman people, and seized it by open force. He declared that the
President had proclaimed an open, palpable, and daring usurpation. He
concluded by asserting that the premonitory symptoms of despotism were
upon us; and if Congress did not apply an instantaneous and effective
remedy, the fatal collapse would soon come on, and we should die—ignobly
die! base, mean, and abject slaves, the scorn and contempt of mankind,
unpitied, unwept, and unmourned. What a spectacle was then presented in
this Chamber! We are told, in the reports of the day, that, when he took
his seat, there was repeated and loud applause in the galleries. This,
it will be remembered, was the introductory speech of the Senator. In my
opinion, it was one of the ablest and most eloquent of all his able and
eloquent speeches. He was then riding upon the whirlwind and directing
the storm. At the time I read it, for I was not then in the Senate, it
reminded me of the able, the vindictive, and the eloquent appeal of Mr.
Burke before the House of Lords, on the impeachment of Warren Hastings,
in which he denounced that governor-general as the ravager and oppressor
of India, and the scourge of the millions who had been placed under his

And yet, we are now told that this resolution did not intend to impute
any criminal motive to the President. That he was a good old man, though
not a good constitutional lawyer: and that he knew better how to wield
the sword than to construe the Constitution.

[Mr. Clay here rose to explain. He said, “I never have said and never
will say, that personally I acquitted the President of any improper
intention. I lament that I cannot say it. But what I did say, was that
the act of the Senate of 1834 is free from the imputation of any
criminal motives.”]

Sir, said Mr. B., this avowal is in character with the frank and manly
nature of the Senator from Kentucky. It is no more than what I expected
from him. The imputation of any improper motive to the President has
been again and again disclaimed by other Senators upon this floor. The
Senator from Kentucky has now boldly come out in his true colors, and
avows the principles which he held at the time. He acknowledges that he
did not acquit the President from improper intentions, when charging him
with a violation of the Constitution of his country.

This trial of the President before the Senate, continued for three
months. During this whole period, instead of the evidence which a
judicial tribunal ought to receive, exciting memorials, signed by vast
numbers of the people, and well calculated to inflame the passions of
his judges, were daily pouring in upon the Senate. He was denounced upon
this floor by every odious epithet which belongs to tyrants. Finally,
the obnoxious resolution was adopted by the vote of the Senate, on the
28th day of March, 1834. After the exposition which I have made, can any
impartial mind doubt but that this resolution intended to charge against
the President a wilful and daring violation of the Constitution and the
laws? I think not.

The Senator from Kentucky has argued, with his usual power, that the
functions of the Senate, acting in a legislative capacity, are not to be
restricted, because it is possible that the same question, in another
form, may come before us judicially. I concur in the truth and justice
of this position. We must perform our legislative duties; and if, in the
investigation of facts, having legislation distinctly in view, we should
incidentally be led to the investigation of criminal charges, it is a
necessity imposed upon us by our condition, from which we cannot escape.
It results from the varying nature of our duties, and not from our own
will. I admit that it would be difficult to mark the precise line which
separates our legislative from our judicial functions. I shall not
attempt it. In many cases, from necessity, they are in some degree
intermingled. The present resolution, however, stands far in advance of
this line. It is placed in bold relief, and is clear of all such
difficulties. It is a mere naked resolution of censure. It refers solely
to the past conduct of the President, and condemns it in the strongest
terms, without even proposing any act of legislation by which the evil
may be remedied hereafter. It was judgment upon the past alone; not
prevention for the future. Nay, more: the resolution is so vague and
general in its terms that it is impossible to ascertain from its face
the cause of the President’s condemnation. The Senate have resolved that
the executive “has assumed upon himself authority and power not
conferred by the Constitution and laws, but in derogation of both.” What
is the specification under this charge? Why, that he has acted thus, “in
the late executive proceedings in relation to the public revenue?” What
executive proceedings? The resolution leaves us entirely in the dark
upon this subject. How could any legislation spring from such a
resolution? It is impossible. None such was ever attempted.

If the resolution had preserved its original phraseology—if it had
condemned the President for dismissing one Secretary of the Treasury
because he would not remove the deposits, and for appointing his
successor to effect this purpose, the Senator might then have contended
that the evil was distinctly pointed out; and, although no legislation
was proposed, the remedy might be applied hereafter. But he has deprived
himself even of this feeble argument. He has left us upon an ocean of
uncertainty, without chart or compass. “The late executive proceedings
in relation to the revenue,” is a phrase of the most general and
indefinite character. Every Senator who voted in favor of this
resolution may have acted upon different principles. To procure its
passage, nothing more was necessary than that a majority should unite in
the conclusion that the President had violated the Constitution and the
laws in some one or other of his numerous acts in relation to the public
revenue. The views of Senators constituting the majority may have varied
from each other to any conceivable extent; and yet they may have united
in the final vote. That this was the fact to a considerable extent, I
have always understood. It is utterly impossible, either that such a
proceeding could ever have been intended to become the basis of
legislation, or that legislative action could have ever sprung from such
a source.

I flatter myself, then, I have succeeded in proving that this resolution
charged the President with a high official misdemeanor, wholly
disconnected from legislation, which, if true, ought to have subjected
him to impeachment.

This brings me directly to the question, had the Senate any power, under
the Constitution, to adopt such a resolution? In other words, can the
Senate condemn a public officer by a simple resolution, for an offence
which would subject him to an impeachment? To state the proposition, is
to answer this question in the negative. Dreadful would be the
consequences if we possess and should exercise such a power.

This body is invested with high and responsible powers of a legislative,
an executive, and a judicial character. No person can enter it until he
has attained a mature age. Our term of service is longer than that of
any other elective functionary. If Senators will have it so, it is the
most aristocratic branch of our Government. For what purpose did the
framers of the Constitution confer upon it these varied and important
powers, and this long tenure of office? The answer is plain. It was
placed in this secure and elevated position that it might be above the
storms of faction which so often inflame the passions of men. It never
was intended to be an arena for political gladiators. Until the second
session of the third Congress, the Senate always sat with closed doors,
except in the single instance when the eligibility of Mr. Gallatin to a
seat in the body was the subject of discussion. Of this particular
practice, however, I cannot approve. I merely state it, to show the
intention of those who formed the Constitution. I was informed by one of
the most eminent statesmen and Senators which this country has ever
produced, now no more (the late Mr. King), that for some years after the
Federal Government commenced its operation, the debates of the Senate
resembled conversations rather than speeches, and that it originated but
few legislative measures. Senators were then critics rather than authors
in legislation. Whether its gain in eloquence, since it has become a
popular assembly, and since the sound of thundering applause has been
heard in our galleries at the denunciation of the President, has been an
equivalent for its loss in true dignity, may well be doubted. To give
this body its just influence with the people, it ought to preserve
itself as free as possible from angry political discussions. In the
performance of our executive duties, in the ratification of treaties,
and in the confirmation of nominations, the Constitution has connected
us with the executive. The efficient and successful administration of
the Government therefore requires that we should move on together in as
much harmony as may be consistent with the independent exercise of our
respective functions.

But above all, we should be the most cautious in guarding our judicial
character from suspicion. We constitute the high court of impeachment of
this nation, before which every officer of the Government may be
arraigned. To this tribunal is committed the character of men whose
character is far dearer to them than their lives. We should be the rock
standing in the midst of the ocean, for the purpose of affording a
shelter to the faithful officer from unjust persecution, against which
the billows might dash themselves in vain. Whilst we are a terror to
evil doers, we should be a praise to those who do well. We should never
voluntarily perform any act which might prejudice our judgment, or
render us suspected as a judicial tribunal. More especially, when the
President of the United States is arraigned at the bar of public opinion
for offences which might subject him to an impeachment, we should remain
not only chaste but unsuspected. Better, infinitely better, would it be
for us not to manifest our feeling, even in a case in which we were
morally certain the House of Representatives would not prefer before us
articles of impeachment, than to reach the object of our disapprobation
by a usurpation of their rights. It is true that when the Senate passed
the resolution condemning the President, a majority in the House were of
a different opinion. But the next elections might have changed that
majority into a minority. The House might then have voted articles of
impeachment against the President. Under such circumstances, I pray you
to consider in what a condition the Senate would have been placed. They
had already prejudged the case. They had already convicted the
President, and denounced him to the world as a violator of the
Constitution. In criminal prosecutions, even against the greatest
malefactor, if a juror has prejudged the cause, he cannot enter the jury
box. The Senate had rendered itself wholly incompetent in this case to
perform its highest judicial functions. The trial of the President, had
articles of impeachment been preferred against him, would have been but
a solemn mockery of justice.

The Constitution of the United States has carefully provided against
such an enormous evil, by declaring that “the House of Representatives
shall have the sole power of impeachment,” and “the Senate shall have
the sole power to try all impeachments.” Until the accused is brought
before us by the House, it is a manifest violation of our solemn duty to
condemn him by a resolution.

If a court of criminal jurisdiction, without any indictment having been
found by a grand jury, without having given the defendant notice to
appear, without having afforded him an opportunity of cross-examining
the witnesses against him, and making his defence, should resolve that
he was guilty of a high crime, and place this conviction upon their
records, all mankind would exclaim against the injustice and
unconstitutionality of the act. Wherein consists the difference between
this case and the condemnation of the President? In nothing, except that
such a conviction by the Senate, on account of its exalted character,
would fall with tenfold force upon its object. I have often been
astonished, notwithstanding the extended and well deserved popularity of
General Jackson, that the moral influence of this condemnation by the
Senate had not crushed him. With what tremendous effect might this
assumed power of the Senate be used to blast the reputation of any man
who might fall under its displeasure! The precedent is extremely
dangerous; and the American people have wisely determined to blot it out

It is painful to reflect what might have been the condition of the
country, if at the inauspicious moment of the passage of the resolution
against the President, its interests and its honor had rendered it
necessary to engage in a foreign war. The fearful consequences of such a
condition, at such a moment, must strike every mind. Would the Senate
then have confided to the President the necessary power to defend the
country? Where could the sinews of war have been found? In what
condition was this body, at that moment, to act upon an important treaty
negotiated by the President, or upon any of his nominations? But I
forbear to enlarge upon this topic.

I have now arrived at the last point in this discussion. Do the Senate
possess the power, under the Constitution, of expunging the resolution
of March, 1834, from their journals, in the manner proposed by the
Senator from Missouri? (Mr. Benton.) I cheerfully admit we must show
that this is not contrary to the Constitution; for we can never redress
one violation of that instrument by committing another. Before I proceed
to this branch of the subject, I shall put myself right, by a brief
historical reminiscence. I entered the Senate in December, 1834, fresh
from the ranks of the people, without the slightest feeling of hostility
against any Senator on this floor. I then thought that the resolution of
the Senator from Missouri was too severe in proposing to _expunge_.
Although I was anxious to record, in strong terms, my entire
disapprobation of the resolution of March, 1834, yet I was willing to
accomplish this object without doing more violence to the feelings of my
associates on this floor, than was absolutely necessary to justify the
President. Actuated by these friendly motives, I exerted all my little
influence with the Senator from Missouri, to induce him to abandon the
word _expunge_, and substitute some others in its place. I knew that
this word was exceedingly obnoxious to the Senators who had voted for
the former resolution. Other friends of his also exerted their
influence; and at length his kindly feelings prevailed, and he consented
to abandon that word, although it was peculiarly dear to him. I speak
from my own knowledge. “All which I saw and part of which I was.”

The resolution of the Senator from Missouri came before the Senate on
the 3d of March, 1835. Under it the resolution of March, 1834, was
“ordered to be expunged from the journal,” for reasons appearing on its
face, which I need not enumerate. The Senator from Tennessee (Mr. White)
moved to amend the resolution of the Senator from Missouri, by striking
out the order to expunge, with the reasons for it, and inserting in
their stead the words, “rescinded, reversed, repealed, and declared to
be null and void.” Some difference of opinion then arose among the
friends of the Administration as to the words which should be
substituted in place of the order to expunge. For the purpose of leaving
this question perfectly open, you, sir, (Mr. King, of Alabama, was in
the chair,) then moved to amend the original motion of Mr. Benton, by
striking out the words, “ordered to be expunged from the journal of the
Senate.” This motion prevailed, on the ayes and noes, by a vote of 39 to
7; and amongst the ayes, the name of the Senator from Missouri is
recorded. The resolution was thus left a blank, in its most essential
features, ready to be filled up as the Senate might direct. The era of
good feeling, in regard to this subject had commenced. It was nipped in
the bud, however, by the Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster).
Whilst the resolution was still in blank, he rose in his place, and
proclaimed the triumph of the Constitution, by the vote to strike out
the word expunge, and then moved to lay the resolution on the table,
declaring that he would neither withdraw his motion for friend nor foe.
This motion precluded all amendment and all debate. It prevailed by a
party vote; and thus we were left with our resolution a blank. Such was
the manner in which the Senators in opposition received our advances of
courtesy and kindness, in the moment of their strength and our weakness.
Had the Senator from Massachusetts suffered us to proceed but for five
minutes, we should have filled up the blank in the resolution. It would
then have assumed a distinct form, and they would never afterwards have
heard of the word expunge. We should have been content with the words
“rescinded, reversed, repealed, and declared to be null and void.” But
the conduct of the Senator from Massachusetts on that occasion, and that
of the party with which he acted, roused the indignation of every friend
of the Administration on this floor. We then determined that the word
_expunge_ should never again be surrendered.

The Senator from Kentucky has introduced a precedent from the
proceedings of the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, for the
purpose of proving that we have no right to adopt this resolution. To
this I can have no possible objection. But I can tell the Senator, if I
were convinced that I had voted wrong, when comparatively a boy, more
than twenty years ago, the fear of being termed inconsistent would not
now deter me from voting right upon the same question. I do not,
however, repent of my vote upon that occasion. I would now vote in the
same manner, under similar circumstances. I should not vote to expunge,
under any circumstances, any proceeding from the journals by
obliterating the record. If I do not prove before I take my seat, that
the case in the Legislature of Pennsylvania was essentially different
from that now before the Senate, I shall agree to be proclaimed
inconsistent and time-serving.

It was my settled conviction at the commencement of the last session of
Congress, that the Senate had no power to obliterate their journal. This
was shaken, but not removed, by the argument of the Senator from
Louisiana, (Mr. Porter), who confessedly made the ablest speech on the
other side of the question. The Constitution declares that “each House
shall keep a journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish
the same, excepting such parts as may in their judgment require
secrecy.” What was the position which that Senator then attempted to
maintain? In order to prove that we had no power to obliterate or
destroy our journals, he thought it necessary to contend that the word
“keep” as used in the Constitution, means both to record and to
preserve. This appeared to me to be a mere begging of the question.

I shall attempt no definition of the word “keep.” At least since the
days of Plato, we know that definitions have been dangerous. Yet I think
that the meaning of this word, as applied to the subject matter, is so
plain that he who runs may read. If I direct my agent to keep a journal
of his proceedings, and publish the same, my palpable meaning is, that
he shall write these proceedings down, from day to day, and publish what
he has written for general information. After he has obeyed my commands,
after he has kept his journal, and published it to the world, he has
executed the essential part of the trust confided to him. What becomes
of this original manuscript journal afterwards, is a matter of total
indifference. So in regard to the manuscript journals of either House of
Congress: after more than a thousand copies have been printed, and
published, and distributed over the Union, it is a matter of not the
least importance what disposition may be made of them. They have
answered their purpose, and, in any practical view, become useless. If
they were burnt, or otherwise destroyed, it would not be an event of the
slightest public consequence. Such indifference has prevailed upon this
subject, that these journals have been considered, in the House of
Representatives, as so much waste paper, and, during a period of
thirty-four years after the organization of the Government, they were
actually destroyed. From this circumstance, no public or private
inconvenience has been or ever can be sustained; because our printed
journals are received in evidence in all courts of justice in the same
manner as if the originals were produced.

The Senator from Louisiana has discovered that to “keep” means both “to
record” and “to preserve.” But can you give this, or any other word in
the English language, two distinct and independent meanings at the same
time, as applied to the same subject? I think not. From the imperfection
of human language, from the impossibility of having appropriate words to
express every idea, the same word, as applied to different subjects, has
a variety of significations. As applied to any one subject, it cannot,
at the same time, convey two distinct meanings. In the Constitution it
must mean either “to write down,” or “to preserve.” It cannot have both
significations. Let Senators, then, take their choice. If it signifies
“to write down,” as it unquestionably does, what becomes of the
constitutional injunction to preserve? The truth is, that the
Constitution has not provided what shall be done with the manuscript
journal, after it has served the purposes for which it was called into
existence. When it has been published to the people of the United
States, for whose use it was ordered to be kept; after it has thus been
perpetuated, and they have been furnished with the means of judging of
the public conduct of their public servants, it ceases to be an object
of the least importance. Whether it be thrown into the garret of the
Capitol with other useless lumber, or be destroyed, is a matter of no
public interest. It has probably never once been referred to in the
history of our Government. If it should ever be determined to be a
violation of the Constitution to obliterate or destroy this manuscript
journal, it must be upon different principles from those which have been
urged in this debate. My own impression is, that as the framers of the
Constitution have directed us to keep a journal, a constructive duty may
be implied from this command, which would forbid us to obliterate or
destroy it. Under this impression, I should vote, as I did twenty years
ago, in the Legislature of Pennsylvania, against any proposition
actually to expunge any part of the journal. But waiving this
unprofitable discussion, let us proceed to the real point in

Is any such proceeding as that of actually expunging the journal,
proposed by the resolution of the Senator from Missouri? I answer, no
such thing. If the Constitution had, in express terms, directed us to
record and to preserve a journal of our proceedings, there is nothing in
the resolution now before us which would be inconsistent with such a

Is the drawing of a black line around the resolution of the Senate, of
March, 1834, to obliterate or deface it? On the contrary, is it not to
render it more conspicuous,—to place it in bold relief,—to give it a
prominence in the public view, beyond any other proceeding of this body,
in past, and I trust, in all future time. If the argument of Senators
were, not that we have no power to obliterate; but that the Senate
possessed no power to render one portion of the journal more conspicuous
than another, it would have had much greater force. Why, sir, by means
of this very proceeding, that portion of our journal upon which it
operates will be rescued from a slumber which would otherwise have been
eternal, and, fac-similes of the original resolution, without a word or
a letter defaced, will be circulated over the whole Union.

But, sir, this resolution also directs that across the face of the
condemnatory resolution there shall be written by the Secretary,
“Expunged by the order of the Senate this —— day of ——, in the year of
our Lord 1837.”

Will this obliterate any part of the original resolution? If it does,
the duty of the Secretary will be performed in a very bungling manner.
No such thing is intended. It would be easy to remove every scruple from
every mind upon this subject, by amending the resolution of the Senator
from Missouri, so as to direct the Secretary to perform his duty in such
a manner as not to obliterate any part of the condemnatory resolution.
Such a direction, however, appears to me to be wholly unnecessary. The
nature of the whole proceeding is very plain. We now adopt a resolution,
expressing our strong reprobation of the original resolution; and for
this purpose we use the word “expunged,” as the strongest term which we
can apply. We then direct our Secretary to draw black lines around it,
and place such a reference to our proceedings of this day upon its face,
that in all time to come, whoever may inspect this portion of our
journal, will be pointed at once to the record of its condemnation. What
lawyer has not observed upon the margin of the judgment docket, if the
original judgment has been removed to a superior court, and there
reversed, a minute of such reversal? In our editions of the statutes,
have we not all noted the repeal of any of them, which may have taken
place at a subsequent period? Who ever heard, in the one case or the
other, that this was obliterating or destroying the record, or the book?
So in this case, we make a mere reference to our future proceeding upon
the face of the resolution, instead of the margin. Suppose we should
only repeal the obnoxious resolution, and direct such a reference to be
made upon its face? Would any Senator contend that this would be an
obliteration of the journal?

But it has been contended that the word _expunge_ is not the appropriate
word; and we have wrested it from its true signification, in applying it
to the present case. Even if this allegation were correct, the answer
would be at hand. You might then convict us of bad taste, but not of a
violation of the Constitution. On the face of the resolution we have
stated distinctly what we mean. We have directed the Secretary in what
manner he shall understand it, and we have excluded the idea that it is
our intention to obliterate or to destroy the journal.

But I shall contend that the word _expunge_ is the appropriate word, and
that there is not another in the English language so precisely adapted
to convey our meaning. I shall show, from the highest literary and
parliamentary authorities, that the word has acquired a signification
entirely distinct from that of actual obliteration. Let me proceed
immediately to this task. After citing my authorities, I shall proceed
with the argument. First, then, for those of a literary character. I
read from Crabbe’s Synonymes, page 140; and every Senator will admit
that this is a work of established reputation. In speaking of the use of
the word expunge, the author says: “When the contents of a book are in
part rejected, they are aptly described as being _expunged_; in this
manner the free-thinking sects _expunge_ everything from the Bible which
does not suit their purpose, or they _expunge_ from their creed what
does not humor their passions.” The idea that an actual obliteration was
intended in these cases would be manifestly absurd. In the same page
there is a quotation from Mr. Burke to illustrate the meaning of this
word. “I believe,” says he, “that any person who was of age to take a
part in public concerns forty years ago (if the intermediate space were
_expunged_ from his memory), could hardly credit his senses when he
should hear that an army of two hundred thousand men was kept up in this
island.” I shall now cite Mr. Jefferson as a literary authority. He has
often been referred to on this floor as a standard in politics. For this
high authority, I am indebted to my friend from Louisiana (Mr.
Nicholas). In the original draft of the declaration of independence, he
uses the word _expunge_ in the following manner: “Such has been the
patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity
which constrains them _to expunge_ their former systems of government.”
Although the word _alter_ was substituted for _expunge_, I presume upon
the ground that this was too strong a term, yet the change does not
detract from the literary authority of the precedent.—_Jefferson’s
Correspondence, &c., 1st volume, page 17._

I presume that I have shown that the word _expunge_ has acquired a
distinct metaphorical meaning in our literature, which excludes the idea
of actual obliteration. If I should proceed one step further, and prove
that in legislative proceedings it has acquired the very same
signification, I shall then have fully established my position. For this
purpose I cite, first, “the Secret Proceedings and Debates of the
Federal Convention.” In page 118, we find the following entries: “On
motion _to expunge_ the clause of the qualification as to age, it was
carried—ten States against one.” Again: “On the clause respecting the
ineligibility to any other office, it was moved that the words ‘by any
particular State,’ _be expunged_—four States for, five against, and two
divided.” So page 119: “The last blank was filled up with _one year_,
and carried—eight ayes, two noes, one divided.”

“Mr. Pinckney moved _to expunge_ the clause—agreed to, _nem.
con._” Again: “Mr. Butler moved _to expunge_ the clause of the
stipends—lost, seven against, three for, one divided.” Again, in page
157: “Mr. Pinckney moved that that part of the clause which disqualifies
a person from holding an office in the State _be expunged_, because the
first and best characters in a State may thereby be deprived of a seat
in the national council.”

“Question put _to strike out_ the words moved for and carried—eight
ayes, three noes.”

It will thus be perceived that in the proceedings of the very convention
which formed the Constitution under which we are now governed, the word
_expunge_ was often used in its figurative sense. It will certainly not
be asserted, or even intimated, by any Senator here, that when these
motions to expunge prevailed, the words of the original draft of the
Constitution were actually obliterated or defaced. The meaning is
palpable. These provisions were merely rejected; not actually blotted

But I shall now produce a precedent precisely in point. It presents
itself in the proceedings of the Senate of Massachusetts, and refers to
the famous resolution of that body adopted on the 15th day of June,
1813, in relation to the capture of the British vessel Peacock;
denouncing the late war, and declaring that it was not becoming in a
moral and religious people, to express any approbation of military or
naval exploits which were not immediately connected with the defence of
our seacoast. Massachusetts adopted the following resolution:

_“Resolved_ That the aforesaid resolve of the fifteenth day of
June, A. D. 1813, and the preamble thereof, _be, and the same are
hereby, expunged from the journals of the Senate_.”

It is self-evident that, in this case, not the least intention existed
of defacing the old manuscript journal. The word “expunge” was used in
its figurative signification, just as it is in the case before us, to
express the strongest reprobation of the former proceeding. That
proceeding was to be expunged solely by force of the subsequent
resolution, and not by any actual obliteration. There never was any
actual obliteration of the journal.

Judging, then, from the highest English authorities, from the works of
celebrated authors and statesmen, and from the proceedings of
legislative bodies, is it not evident that the word _expunge_ has
acquired a distinct meaning, altogether inconsistent with any actual

All that we have heard about defacing and destroying the journal are
mere phantoms, which have been conjured up to terrify the timid. We
intend no such thing. We only mean, most strongly, to express our
conviction that the condemnatory resolution ought never to have found a
place on the journal. If more authorities were wanting, I might refer to
the Legislature of Virginia. The present expunging resolution is in
exact conformity with their instructions to their Senators. As a matter
of taste, I cannot say that I much admire their plan, though I entertain
no doubt but that it is perfectly constitutional. That State is highly
literary; and I think I have established that their Legislature, when
they used the word _expunge_, without intending thereby to effect an
actual obliteration of the journal, justly appreciated the meaning of
the language which they employed.

The word _expunge_ is, in my opinion, the only one which we could have
used, clearly and forcibly to accomplish our purpose. Even if it had not
been sanctioned by practice as a parliamentary word, we ought ourselves
to have first established the precedent. It suits the case precisely. If
you rescind, reverse, or repeal a resolution; you thereby admit that it
once had some constitutional or legal authority. If you declare it to
have been null and void from the beginning; this is but the expression
of your own opinion that such was the fact. This word expunge acts upon
the resolution itself. It at once goes to its origin, and destroys its
legal existence as if it had never been. It does not merely kill, but it

Parliamentary practice has changed the meaning of several other words
from their primitive signification, in a similar manner with that of the
word expunge. The original signification of the word rescind is “to cut
off.” Usage has made it mean, in reference to a law or resolution, to
abrogate or repeal it. We every day hear motions “to strike out.” What
is the literal meaning of this expression? The question may be best
answered by asking another. If I were to request you to strike out a
line from your letter, and you were willing to comply with my request,
what would be your conduct? You would run your pen through it
immediately. You would literally strike it out. Yet what use do we make
of this phrase every day in our legislative proceedings? If I make a
motion to strike out a section from a bill and it prevails, the
Secretary encloses the printed copy of it in black lines, and makes a
note on the margin that it has been stricken out. The original he never
touches. Why then should not the word expunge, without obliterating the
proceeding to which it is directed, signify to destroy as if it never
had existed?

After all that has been said, I think I need scarcely again recur to the
Pennsylvania precedent. It is evident from the whole of that proceeding
that an actual expunging of the journal was intended, if it had not
already been executed. I have no recollection whatever of the
circumstances, but I am under a perfect conviction, from the face of the
journal, that such was the nature of the case. I should vote now as I
did then, after a period of more than twenty years. Both my vote, and
the motion which I subsequently made upon that occasion, evidently
proceeded upon this principle. The question arose in this manner, as it
appears from the journal. On the 10th of February, 1816, “The Speaker
informed the House that a constitutional question being involved in a
decision by him yesterday, on a motion to expunge certain proceedings
from the journal, he was desirous of having the opinion of the House on
that decision,” viz: “that a majority can expunge from the journal
proceedings in which the yeas and nays have not been called.” Now, as no
trace whatever appears upon the journal of the preceding day of the
motion to which the Speaker refers, it is highly probable, nay, it is
almost certain, that the proceedings had been actually expunged before
he asked the advice of the House.

No man feels with more sensibility, the necessity which compels him to
perform an unkind act towards his brother Senators than myself; but we
have now arrived at that point when imperious duty demands that we
should either adopt this expunging resolution or abandon it forever.
Already much precious time has been employed in its discussion. The
moment has arrived when we must act. Senators in the opposition console
themselves with the belief that posterity will do them justice, should
it be denied to them by the present generation. They place their own
names in the one scale and ours in the other, and flatter themselves
with the hope that before that tribunal at least, their weight will
preponderate. For my own part, I am willing to abide the issue. I am
willing to be judged for the vote which I shall give to-day, not only by
the present, but by future generations, should my obscure name ever be
mentioned in after times. After the passions and prejudices of the
present moment shall have subsided, and the impartial historian shall
come to record the proceedings of this day, he will say that the
distinguished men who passed the resolution condemning the President
were urged on to the act by a desire to occupy the high places in the
Government. That an ambition noble in itself, but not wisely regulated,
had obscured their judgment, and impelled them to the adoption of a
measure unjust, illegal, and unconstitutional. That in order to
vindicate both the Constitution and the President, we were justified in
passing this expunging resolution, and thus stamping the former
proceeding with our strongest disapprobation.

I rejoice in the belief that this promises to be one of the last highly
exciting questions of the present day. During the period of General
Jackson’s civil administration, what has he not done for the American
people? During this period he has had more difficult and dangerous
questions to settle, both at home and abroad,—questions which aroused
more intensely the passions of men,—than any of his predecessors. They
are now all happily ended, except the one which we shall this day bring
to a close,

            “And all the clouds that lowered upon our house
            In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

The country now enjoys abundant prosperity at home, whilst it is
respected and admired by foreign nations. Although the waves may yet be
in some agitation from the effect of the storms through which we have
passed, yet I think I can perceive the rainbow of peace extending itself
across the firmament of Heaven.

Should the next administration pursue the same course of policy with the
present—should it dispense equal justice to all portions and all
interests of the Union, without sacrificing any—should it be conducted
with prudence and with firmness, and I doubt not but that this will be
the case—we shall hereafter enjoy comparative peace and quiet in our
day. This will be the precious fruit of the energy, the toils, and the
wisdom of the pilot who has conducted us in safety through the storms of
his tempestuous administration.

I am now prepared for the question. I shall vote for this resolution;
but not cheerfully. I regret the necessity which exists for passing it;
but I believe that imperious duty demands its adoption. If I know my own
heart, I can truly say that I am not actuated by any desire to obtain a
miserable, petty, personal triumph, either for myself, or for the
President of the United States, over my associates upon this floor.

I am now ready to record my vote, and thus, in the opprobrious language
of Senators in the opposition, to become one of the executioners of the
condemnatory resolution.


Footnote 53:

  The writer has had occasion to treat of this occurrence more at length
  in his Life of Mr. Webster. He has there expressed the opinion that if
  the friends of the President, when they obtained a majority in the
  Senate, had contented themselves with adopting a resolution
  exonerating him from the censure passed in 1834, no one could have
  complained. Probably they would have done so, if the circumstances
  attending the adoption of Mr. Clay’s resolution had not provoked them
  to devise what they regarded as an imposing form of stigmatizing that
  act. All that is of any consequence now, in relation to this
  proceeding, turns upon the contradiction between the constitutional
  requirement to “keep” a legislative journal, and a subsequent
  obliteration or cancellation of any part of it, by any means whatever.
  On this subject, see the protest read in the Senate by Mr. Webster, in
  his Life, by the present writer, vol. I, p. 545, _et seq._


                             CHAPTER XIII.


In the latter part of the second administration of General Jackson, the
subject of slavery began to be pressed upon the attention of Congress by
petitions for its abolition in the District of Columbia.

In a future chapter will be traced the origin and progress of the
anti-slavery agitation in the Northern States. At present, it is only
needful for me to describe Mr. Buchanan’s course as a Senator, on the
different aspects of this subject which arose during the second
administration of General Jackson. On the 7th of January, 1836, two
petitions were presented in the Senate, signed by citizens of Ohio,
praying for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia. Mr.
Calhoun demanded that they should be read, and, after the reading, he
objected to their being received. Mr. Buchanan made the following
remarks in replying to Mr. Calhoun:

Mr. Buchanan said that, for two or three weeks past, there had been in
his possession a memorial from the Cain Quarterly Meeting of the
religious Society of Friends, in the State of Pennsylvania, requesting
Congress to abolish slavery and the slave trade within the District of
Columbia. This memorial was not a printed form—its language was not that
in established use for such documents. It did not proceed from those
desperate fanatics who have been endeavoring to disturb the security and
peace of society in the Southern States, by the distribution of
incendiary pamphlets and papers. Far different is the truth. It emanates
from a society of Christians, whose object had always been to promote
peace and good-will among men, and who have been the efficient and
persevering friends of humanity in every clime. To their untiring
efforts, more than to those of any other denomination of Christians, we
owe the progress which has been made in abolishing the African slave
trade throughout the world. This memorial was their testimony against
the existence of slavery. This testimony they had borne for more than a
century. Of the purity of their motives, there could not be a question.

He had omitted to present this memorial at an earlier day, because he
had thought that, on its presentation at the proper time, much good
might be done. He had believed that, by private consultations, some
resolution might be devised upon this exciting subject which would
obtain the unanimous vote of the Senate. If there was one man in that
body not willing to adopt a proper measure to calm the troubled spirit
of the South, he did not know him. This, in his judgment, would be the
best mode of accomplishing the object which we all desire to accomplish.
The proper course to attain this result was, in his opinion, to refer
the subject, either to a select committee, or to the Committee for the
District of Columbia. They would examine it in all its bearings, they
would ascertain the views and feelings of individual Senators, and he
had no doubt they would be able to recommend some measure to the Senate
on which they could all unite. This would have a most happy effect upon
the country. He had intended, upon presenting the memorial which he had
in charge, to have suggested this mode of proceeding. He regretted,
therefore, he had not known that his friend from Ohio (Mr. Morris) was
in possession of memorials having a similar object in view. If he had
been informed of it, he should have endeavored to persuade him to wait
until Monday next, when he (Mr. B.) would have been prepared to pursue
the course he had indicated. But the question has now been forced upon
us. No (said Mr. B.), it has not been forced upon me, because I am glad
to have a suitable occasion of expressing my opinions upon the subject.

The memorial which I have in my possession is entitled to the utmost
respect, from the character of the memorialists. As I entirely dissent
from the opinion which they express, that we ought to abolish slavery in
the District of Columbia, I feel it to be due to them, to myself, and to
the Senate, respectfully, but firmly, to state the reasons why I cannot
advocate their views or acquiesce in their conclusions.

If any one principle of constitutional law can, at this day, be
considered as settled, it is, that Congress have no right, no power,
over the question of slavery within those States where it exists. The
property of the master in his slave existed in full force before the
Federal Constitution was adopted. It was a subject which then belonged,
as it still belongs, to the exclusive jurisdiction of the several
States. These States, by the adoption of the Constitution, never yielded
to the General Government any right to interfere with the question. It
remains where it was previous to the establishment of our confederacy.

The Constitution has, in the clearest terms, recognized the right of
property in slaves. It prohibits any State into which a slave may have
fled from passing any law to discharge him from slavery, and declares
that he shall be delivered up by the authorities of such State to his
master. Nay, more, it makes the existence of slavery the foundation of
political power, by giving to those States within which it exists
representatives in Congress, not only in proportion to the whole number
of free persons, but also in proportion to three-fifths of the number of

An occasion very fortunately arose in the first Congress to settle this
question forever. The Society for the abolition of Slavery in
Pennsylvania brought it before that Congress by a memorial which was
presented on the 11th day of February, 1790. After the subject had been
discussed for several days, and after solemn deliberation, the House of
Representatives, in Committee of the Whole, on the 23d day of March,
1790, resolved “That Congress have no authority to interfere in the
emancipation of slaves, or in the treatment of them within any of the
States; it remaining with the several States alone to provide any
regulations therein, which humanity and true policy may require.”

I have thought it would be proper to present this decision, which was
made almost half a century ago, distinctly to the view of the American
people. The language of the resolution is clear, precise, and definite.
It leaves the question where the Constitution left it, and where, so far
as I am concerned, it ever shall remain. The Constitution of the United
States never would have been called into existence,—instead of the
innumerable blessings which have flowed from our happy Union, we should
have had anarchy, jealousy, and civil war among the sister Republics of
which our confederacy is composed, had not the free States abandoned all
control over this question. For one, whatever may be my opinions upon
the abstract question of slavery, (and I am free to confess they are
those of the people of Pennsylvania,) I shall never attempt to violate
this fundamental compact. The Union will be dissolved, and incalculable
evils will arise from its ashes, the moment any such attempt is
seriously made by the free States in Congress.

What, then, are the circumstances under which these memorials are now
presented? A number of fanatics, led on by foreign incendiaries, have
been scattering “arrows, firebrands, and death” throughout the Southern
States. The natural tendency of their publications is to produce
dissatisfaction and revolt among the slaves, and to incite their wild
passions to vengeance. All history, as well as the present condition of
the slaves, proves that there can be no danger of the final result of a
servile war. But, in the mean time, what dreadful scenes may be enacted
before such an insurrection, which would spare neither age nor sex,
could be suppressed! What agony of mind must be suffered, especially by
the gentler sex, in consequence of these publications! Many a mother
clasps her infant to her bosom when she retires to rest, under dreadful
apprehensions that she may be aroused from her slumbers by the savage
yells of the slaves by whom she is surrounded. These are the works of
the abolitionists. That their motives may be honest I do not doubt, but
their zeal is without knowledge. The history of the human race presents
numerous examples of ignorant enthusiasts, the purity of whose
intentions cannot be doubted, who have spread devastation and bloodshed
over the face of the earth.

These fanatics, instead of benefiting the slaves who are the objects of
their regard, have inflicted serious injury upon them. Self-preservation
is the first law of nature. The masters, for the sake of their wives and
children, for the sake of all that is near and dear to them on earth,
must tighten the reins of authority over their slaves. They must thus
counteract the efforts of the abolitionists. The slaves are denied many
indulgences which their masters would otherwise cheerfully grant. They
must be kept in such a state of bondage as effectually to prevent their
rising. These are the injurious effects produced by the abolitionists
upon the slave himself. Whilst, on the one hand, they render his
condition miserable, by presenting to his mind vague notions of freedom
never to be realized, on the other, they make it doubly miserable, by
compelling the master to be severe, in order to prevent any attempts at
insurrection. They thus render it impossible for the master to treat his
slave according to the dictates of his heart and his feelings.

Besides, do not the abolitionists perceive that the spirit which is thus
roused must protract to an indefinite period the emancipation of the
slave? The necessary effect of their efforts is to render desperate
those to whom the power of emancipation really belongs. I believe most
conscientiously, in whatever light this subject can be viewed, that the
best interests of the slave require that the question should be left,
where the Constitution has left it, to the slaveholding States
themselves, without foreign interference.

This being a true statement of the case, as applied to the States where
slavery exists, what is now asked by these memorialists? That in this
District of ten miles square—a District carved out of two slaveholding
States, and surrounded by them on all sides—slavery shall be abolished.
What would be the effects of granting their request? You would thus
erect a citadel in the very heart of these States, upon a territory
which they have ceded to you for a far different purpose, from which
abolitionists and incendiaries could securely attack the peace and
safety of their citizens. You establish a spot within the slaveholding
States which would be a city of refuge for run-away slaves. You create
by law a central point from which trains of gunpowder may be securely
laid, extending into the surrounding States, which may, at any moment,
produce a fearful and destructive explosion. By passing such a law, you
introduce the enemy into the very bosom of these two States, and afford
him every opportunity to produce a servile insurrection. Is there any
reasonable man who can for one moment suppose that Virginia and Maryland
would have ceded the District of Columbia to the United States, if they
had entertained the slightest idea that Congress would ever use it for
any such purpose? They ceded it for your use, for your convenience, and
not for their own destruction. When slavery ceases to exist, under the
laws of Virginia and Maryland, then, and not till then, ought it to be
abolished in the District of Columbia.

(Mr. B. said that, notwithstanding these were his opinions, he could not
vote for the motion of the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) not
to receive these memorials. He would not at present proceed to state his
reasons, still hoping the Senate could yet agree upon some course which
would prove satisfactory to all. With this view, he moved that the whole
subject be postponed until Monday next.)

When the following Monday came (January 11th, 1836), Mr. Buchanan said:

He was now about to present the memorial of the Caln Quarterly Meeting
of the Religious Society of Friends in Pennsylvania, requesting Congress
to abolish slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. On
this subject he had expressed his opinions to the Senate on Thursday
last, and he had no disposition to repeat them at present. He would say,
however, that on a review of these opinions, he was perfectly satisfied
with them. All he should now say was, that the memorial which he was
about to present was perfectly respectful in its language. Indeed, it
could not possibly be otherwise, considering the respectable source from
which it emanated.

It would become his duty to make some motion in regard to this memorial.
On Thursday last, he had suggested that in his judgment the best course
to pursue was to refer these memorials to a selected committee, or to
the committee for the District of Columbia. He still thought so; but he
now found that insurmountable obstacles presented themselves to such a

In presenting this memorial and in exerting himself so far as in him
lay, to secure for it that respectful reception by the Senate which it
deserved, he should do his duty to the memorialists. After it should
receive this reception, he should have a duty to perform to himself and
to his country. He was clearly of opinion, for the reasons he had stated
on Thursday last, that Congress ought not at this time to abolish
slavery in the District of Columbia, and that it was our duty promptly
to place this exciting question at rest. He should, therefore, move that
the memorial be read, and that the prayer of the memorialists be

At a subsequent day (January 19th), the pending question was, on the
reception of the Memorial of the Pennsylvania Quakers, or Friends; and
on this question Mr. Buchanan said:

It was not now his intention to repeat anything he had said on a former
occasion in regard to the abolition of slavery in this District. The
remarks which he had then made, after much reflection, still met his
entire approbation. He would not now have alluded to them were it not
for the misapprehension which still appeared to prevail upon this floor
in regard to the state of Northern feeling on this subject.

Those remarks had, he believed, been more extensively circulated
throughout Pennsylvania than any which he had ever made upon any
occasion. If they had been censured anywhere in that State, by any
party, the fact was unknown to him. On the contrary, he had strong
reasons to believe they had been received with general approbation.

He was not in the habit of using private letters to sustain any position
which he might take upon this floor or elsewhere. He would say, however,
that since he had presented the memorial now the subject of
consideration before the Senate, he had received another memorial of a
similar character from the city of Philadelphia. This memorial had been
transmitted to him by two gentlemen whose name and character would be
the strongest guaranty for the truth of their assertions, did he feel
himself at liberty to make them known to the Senate. He would not even
have alluded to their letter, but that it related to a public subject in
which the country was deeply interested, and accompanied the memorial
which they had requested him to present to the Senate. The following is
an extract from this letter:

“Although we have not the pleasure of thy acquaintance, permit us on
this occasion to express our satisfaction with thy remarks in the Senate
some weeks since, in which the opinion was forcibly sustained that no
sensible man at the North would advocate the right of Congress to
interfere with the subject of slavery in the slave States themselves. We
are fully persuaded this is the fact in our neighborhood.

“In a pretty extensive acquaintance with the friends of abolition in
this city, we unhesitatingly declare that we have never heard such an
opinion advocated, _and we defy our opponents to point out a man that
has ever circulated any publication calculated to produce discord in the
Southern States_.

“But whilst we fully recognize this view, we are aware that the
Constitution guaranties to us the right of memorializing Congress on any
subject connected with the welfare of the District of Columbia, and we
intend ever to exercise it in the spirit of charity and good-feeling.”

Mr. B. believed this statement to be true. Although all the people of
Pennsylvania were opposed to slavery in the abstract, yet they would not
sanction any attempts to excite the slaves of the Southern States to
insurrection and bloodshed. Whilst they knew their own rights, and would
maintain them, they never would invade the rights of others which had
been secured by the Federal Constitution. He was proud to say this had
always been the character and the conduct of the State which he had in
part the honor to represent in her relations with her sister States.

He felt himself justified in declaring that Pennsylvania was perfectly
sound upon this question. Abolitionists there may be in Pennsylvania,
but it had never been his fate to meet a single one. If we have a man
amongst us who desires, by the circulation of incendiary publications
and pictures throughout the slaveholding States, to produce a servile
insurrection, and thus to abolish slavery, he knew him not. In the
language of the letter he had just read, whatever might be the case
further north, he might defy any gentleman to point out a man in
Pennsylvania who has ever circulated any publication calculated to
produce discord in the Southern States.

He had heard within the last few days that emissaries were now traveling
throughout Pennsylvania for the purpose of propagating the doctrine of
immediate abolition. He thought he might venture to predict that they
would fail in their attempts.

Although he did not mean at present to discuss the general question, yet
the Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Preston) must permit him to say
that, in his remarks of yesterday, he had done much to dignify the cause
of abolition, and to give its supporters a character which they did not

Mr. B. was not so well able to judge what effect those remarks might
produce on the South; but he protested against the accuracy of the
statements which that gentleman had made in regard to the condition of
Northern feeling on this subject. His information had been incorrect. If
the gloomy coloring of the picture which he had presented could be
considered any thing but a fancy sketch, the South might believe that
the time had arrived when it would be their duty to decide whether it
was not necessary to dissolve this Union, for the protection of their
rights. Mr. B. thought far otherwise. This crisis had not arrived, and,
he trusted, never would arrive. The force of public opinion will
prostrate this fanatical and dangerous spirit. He must say, however,
that the enemies of the cause of abolition at the North had a right to
expect that gentlemen from the South would not adopt a course which
might tend to increase our difficulties. They ought to permit us to
judge for ourselves in this matter, and to throw no obstacles in our way
which the nature of the subject does not necessarily present.

Let it be once understood that the sacred right of petition and the
cause of the abolitionists must rise or must fall together, and the
consequences may be fatal. I would, therefore, warn Southern gentlemen
to reflect seriously in what situation they place their friends in the
North, by insisting that this petition shall not be received.

We have just as little right to interfere with slavery in the South, as
we have to touch the right of petition. Whence is this right derived?
Can a republican government exist without it? Man might as well attempt
to exist without breathing the vital air. No government possessing any
of the elements of liberty has ever existed, or can ever exist, unless
its citizens or subjects enjoy this right. From the very structure of
your Government, from the very establishment of a Senate and House of
Representatives, the right of petition naturally and necessarily
resulted. A representative republic, established by the people, without
the people having the right to make their wants and their wishes known
to their servants, would be the most palpable absurdity. This right,
even if it were not expressly sanctioned by the Constitution, would
result from its very nature. It could not be controlled by any action of
Congress, or either branch of it. If the Constitution had been silent
upon the subject, the only consequence would be, that it would stand in
the very front rank of those rights of the people which are expressly
guarantied to them by the ninth article of the amendments to that
instrument, inserted from abundant but necessary caution. I shall read
this article. It declares that “the enumeration in the Constitution of
certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others
retained by the people.” It would, without any express provision, have
stood in the same rank with the liberty of speech and of the press, and
have been entirely beyond the control of the Government. It is a right
which could not have been infringed without extinguishing the vital
spirit of our institutions. If any had been so bold as to attempt to
violate it, it would have been a conclusive argument to say to them that
the Constitution has given you no power over the right of petition, and
you dare not touch it.

The Senator from South Carolina (Mr. Calhoun) has justly denominated the
amendments to the Constitution as our Bill of Rights. The jealousy which
the States entertained of federal power brought these amendments into
existence. They supposed that, in future times, Congress might desire to
extend the powers of this Government, and usurp the rights which were
not granted them by the people of the States. From a provident caution,
they have, in express terms, denied to Congress every sort of control
over religion; over the freedom of speech and of the press; and over the
right of petition. The first article of the amendments declares that
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of
speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Now, sir, what is the first position taken by the Senator from South
Carolina against receiving this memorial? I desire to quote him with
perfect accuracy. He says that the Constitution prohibits Congress from
passing any law to abridge the right of petition; that, to refuse to
receive this petition, would not be to pass any such law, and that
therefore, the Constitution would not be violated by such a refusal.

Does not the Senator perceive that, if this doctrine can be maintained,
the right of petition is gone forever? It is a mere empty name. The
Senate would possess the power of controlling it at their will and
pleasure. No matter what may be the prayer of any petition; no matter
how just may be the grievances of the people demanding redress, we may
refuse to hear their complaints, and inform them that this is one of our
prerogatives; because, to refuse to receive their petition is not the
passage of a law abridging their right to petition. How can the
gentleman escape from this consequence? Is the Senate to be the arbiter?
Are we to decide what the people may petition for, and what they shall
not bring before us? Is the servant to dictate to the master? Such a
construction can never be the true one.

The most striking feature of this argument is, that the very article of
the Constitution which was intended to guard the right of petition with
the most jealous care is thus perverted from its original intention, and
made the instrument of destroying this very right. What we cannot do by
law, what is beyond the power of both Houses of Congress and the
President, according to the gentleman’s argument, the Senate can of
itself accomplish. The Senate alone, if his argument be correct, may
abridge the right of petition, acting in its separate capacity, though
it could not, as one branch of the Legislature, consent to any law which
would confer upon itself this power.

What is the true history and character of this article of the
Constitution? In the thirteenth year of the reign of that “royal
scoundrel” Charles the Second, as the Senator from Virginia (Mr. Leigh)
has justly denominated him, an act of Parliament was passed, abridging
the right of petition. It declared that “no petition to the king or
either House of Parliament, for any alteration in Church or State, shall
be signed by above twenty persons, unless the matter thereof be approved
by three justices of the peace, or the major part of the grand jury in
the county; and in London by the lord mayor, aldermen, and common
council; nor shall any petition be presented by more than ten persons at
a time.” Each Senator will readily perceive that the right of petition
was thus laid almost entirely prostrate at the feet of the sovereign.
The justices of the peace, and the sheriffs who selected the grand
juries, were his creatures, appointed and removed at his pleasure. Out
of the city of London, without their consent, no petition for an
alteration in Church or State could be signed by more than twenty
individuals. At the revolution of 1688, the Bill of Rights guarantied to
English subjects the right of petitioning the king, but the courts of
justice decided that it did not repeal the statute of the second
Charles. This statute still remained in force at the adoption of the
federal Constitution. Such was the state of the law in that country,
from which we have derived most of our institutions, when this amendment
to the Constitution was adopted.

Although the Constitution, as it came from the hands of its framers,
gave to Congress no power to touch the right of petition, yet some of
the States to whom it was submitted for ratification, apprehending the
time might arrive when Congress would be disposed to act like the
British Parliament, expressly withdrew the subject from our control. Not
satisfied with the fact that no power over it had been granted by the
Constitution, they determined to prohibit us in express terms from ever
exercising such a power. This is the true history of the first article
of our Bill of Rights.

Let me put another case to the Senator from South Carolina. Some years
since, as a manager on the part of the House of Representatives, I had
the honor to appear before this body, then sitting as a high court of
impeachment. In that case, the accused, when sitting as a district judge
of the United States, had brought an attorney of his court before him by
an attachment for contempt, and without any trial by jury had convicted
him of a libel, and sentenced him to imprisonment. The judge was
acquitted; and at the moment I thought this decision had placed the
freedom of the press in danger. If the sedition law were clearly
unconstitutional, and nobody now doubts it; if Congress could not confer
upon the courts of the United States, by express enactment, any question
over the power of libel, I thought it monstrous that a judge, without
the intervention of a jury, under highly excited feelings, should be
permitted to try and to punish libels committed against himself
according to his will and pleasure. My apprehensions were of but short
duration. A few days after the acquittal of this judge, the Senate,
without one dissenting voice, passed a bill, not to create a new law,
but declaratory of what the old law, or rather what the Constitution
was, under which no federal judge will ever again dare to punish a libel
as a contempt. The constitutional provision in favor of the liberty of
the press was thus redeemed from judicial construction.

Now, sir, we must all admit that libels of the grossest character are
daily published against the Senate and its individual members. Suppose
an attempt should be made to bring one of these libelers before us, and
to punish him for a contempt, would the gentleman from South Carolina
contend that we might do so without violating the Constitution, and that
we might convict him and sentence him to imprisonment, because such a
conviction and sentence would not be the passage of a law abridging the
freedom of the press? The gentleman’s excited feelings upon the subject
of abolition have led his judgment astray. No construction can be
correct which would lead to such palpable absurdities.

The very language of this amendment itself contains the strongest
recognition of the right of petition. In the clearest terms, it
presupposes its existence. How can you abridge a right which has no
previous existence? On this question I deem the argument of my friend
from Georgia (Mr. King) conclusive. The amendment assumes that the
people have the right to petition for the redress of grievances, and
places it beyond the power of Congress to touch this sacred right. The
truth is, that the authors of the amendment believed this to be a
Government of such tremendous power that it was necessary, in express
terms, to withdraw from its grasp their most essential rights. The right
of every citizen to worship his God according to the dictates of his own
conscience; his right freely to speak, and freely to print and publish
his thoughts to the world; and his right to petition the Government for
a redress of grievances, are placed entirely beyond the control of the
Congress of the United States, or either of its branches. There may they
ever remain! These fundamental principles of liberty are companions.
They rest upon the same foundation. They must stand or must fall
together. They will be maintained so long as American liberty shall

The next argument advanced by the gentleman is, that we are not bound to
receive this petition, because to grant its prayer would be
unconstitutional? In this argument I shall not touch the question,
whether Congress possess the power to abolish slavery in the District of
Columbia or not. Suppose they do not, can the gentleman maintain the
position, that we are authorized by the Constitution to refuse to
receive a petition from the people, because we may deem the object of it
unconstitutional? Whence is any such restriction of the right of
petition derived? Who gave it to us? Is it to be found in the
Constitution? The people are not constitutional lawyers; but they feel
oppression, and know when they are aggrieved. They present their
complaints to us in the form of a petition. I ask, by what authority can
we refuse to receive it? They have a right to spread their wishes and
their wants before us, and to ask for redress. We are bound respectfully
to consider their request; and the best answer which we can give them
is, that they have not conferred upon us the power, under the
Constitution of the United States, to grant them the relief which they
desire. On any other principle we may first decide that we have no power
over a particular subject, and then refuse to hear the petitions of the
people in relation to it. We would thus place the constitutional right
of our constituents to petition at the mercy of our own discretion.

Again, sir, we possess the power of originating amendments to the
Constitution. Although, therefore, we may not be able to grant the
petitioners relief, such a petition may induce us to exercise this
power, and to ask for a new grant of authority from the States.

The gentleman’s third proposition was, that we are not bound to receive
this petition, because it is no grievance to the citizens of any of the
States, that slavery exists in this District. But who are to be the
judges, in the first instance, whether the people are aggrieved or not?
Is it those who suffer, or fancy they suffer, or the Senate? If we are
to decide when they ought to feel aggrieved, and when they ought to be
satisfied, if the tribunal to whom their petitions are addressed may
refuse to receive them, because, in their opinion, there was no just
cause of complaint, the right of petition is destroyed. It would be but
a poor answer to their petitions to tell them they ought not to have
felt aggrieved, that they are mistaken, and that, therefore, their
complaints would not be received by their servants.

I may be asked, is there no case in which I would be willing to refuse
to receive a petition? I answer that it must be a very strong one indeed
to justify such a refusal. There is one exception, however, which
results from the very nature of the right itself. Neither the body
addressed nor any of its members must be insulted, under the pretext of
exercising this right. It must not be perverted from its purpose, and be
made the instrument of degrading the body to which the petition is
addressed. Such a petition would be in fraud of the right itself, and
the necessary power of self-protection and self-preservation inherent in
every legislative body confers upon it the authority of defending itself
against direct insults presented in this or any other form. Beyond this
exception I would not go; and it is solely for the purpose of
self-protection, in my opinion, that the rules of the Senate enable any
of its members to raise the question, whether a petition shall be
received or not. If the rule has any other object in view, it is a
violation of the Constitution.

I would confine this exception within the narrowest limits. The acts of
the body addressed may be freely canvassed by the people, and they may
be shown to be unjust or unconstitutional. These may be the very reasons
why the petition is presented. “To speak his mind is every freeman’s
right.” They may and they ought to express themselves with that manly
independence which belongs to American citizens. To exclude their
petition, it must appear palpable that an insult to the body was
intended, and not a redress of grievances.

Extreme cases have been put by the Senator from South Carolina.
Ridiculous or extravagant petitions may be presented; though I should
think that scarcely a sane man could be found in this country who would
ask Congress to abolish slavery in the State of Georgia. In such a case
I would receive the petition, and consign it at once to that merited
contempt which it would deserve. The Constitution secures the right of
being heard by petition to every citizen; and I would not abridge it
because he happened to be a fool.

The proposition is almost too plain for argument, that if the people
have a constitutional right to petition, a corresponding duty is imposed
upon us to receive their petitions. From the very nature of things,
rights and duties are reciprocal. The human mind cannot conceive of the
one without the other. They are relative terms. If the people have a
right to command, it is the duty of their servants to obey. If I have a
right to a sum of money, it is the duty of my debtor to pay it to me. If
the people have a right to petition their representatives, it is our
duty to receive their petition.

This question was solemnly determined by the Senate more than thirty
years ago. Neither before nor since that time, so far as I can learn,
has the general right of petition ever been called in question, until
the motion now under consideration was made by the Senator from South
Carolina. Of course I do not speak of cases embraced within the
exception which I have just stated. No Senator has ever contended that
this is one of them. To prove my position, I shall read an extract from
our journals. On Monday, the 21st January, 1805, “Mr. Logan presented a
petition signed Thomas Morris, Clerk, in behalf of the meeting of the
representatives of the people called Quakers, in Pennsylvania, New
Jersey, etc., stating that the petitioners, from a sense of religious
duty, had again come forward to plead the cause of their oppressed and
degraded fellow-men of the African race; and, on the question, “Shall
this petition be received?” it passed in the affirmative; yeas, 19;
nays, 9.

“The yeas and nays being required by one-fifth of the Senators present,
those who voted in the affirmative are—Messrs. Adams, Mass., Bayard,
Del., Brown, Ky., Condict, N. J., Franklin, N. C., Hillhouse, Conn.,
Howland, R. I., Logan, Penn., Maclay, Penn., Mitchell, N. Y., Alcott, N.
H., Pickering, Mass., Plumer, N. H., Smith, Ohio, Smith, Vt., Stone, N.
C., Sumpter, S. C., White, Del., Worthington, Ohio.

“And those who voted in the negative are—Anderson, Tenn., Baldwin, Ga.,
Bradley, Vt., Cocke, Tenn., Jackson, Ga., Moore, Va., Smith, Md., Smith,
N. Y., and Wright, Md.

“So the petition was read.”

The Senate will perceive that I have added to the names of the members
of the Senate that of the States which they each represented. The
Senator from South Carolina will see that, among those who, upon this
occasion, sustained the right of petition, there is found the name of
General Sumpter, his distinguished predecessor. I wish him also to
observe that but seven Senators from slaveholding States voted against
receiving the petition; although it was of a character well calculated
to excite their hostile and jealous feelings.

The present, sir, is a real controversy between liberty and power. In my
humble judgment, it is far the most important question which has been
before the Senate since I have had the honor of occupying a seat in this
body. It is a contest between those, however unintentionally, who desire
to abridge the right of the people, in asking their servants for a
redress of grievances, and those who desire to leave it, as the
Constitution left it, free as the air. Petitions ought ever to find
their way into the Senate without impediment; and I trust that the
decision upon this question will result in the establishment of one of
the dearest rights which a free people can enjoy.

Now, sir, why should the Senator from South Carolina urge the motion
which he has made? I wish I could persuade him to withdraw it. We of the
North honestly believe, and I feel confident he will not doubt our
sincerity, that we cannot vote for his motion without violating our duty
to God and to the country—without disregarding the oath which we have
sworn, to support the Constitution. This is not the condition of those
who advocate his motion. It is not pretended that the Constitution
imposes any obligation upon them to vote for this motion. With them it
is a question of mere expediency; with us, one of constitutional duty. I
ask gentlemen of the South, for their own sake, as well as for that of
their friends in the North, to vote against this motion. It will place
us all in a false position, where neither their sentiments nor ours will
be properly understood.

The people of the North are justly jealous of their rights and
liberties. Among these, they hold the right of petition to be one of the
most sacred character. I would say to the gentlemen of the South, why
then will you array yourselves, without any necessity, against this
right? You believe that we are much divided on the question of
abolition; why, then, will you introduce another element of discord
amongst us, which may do your cause much harm, and which cannot possibly
do it any good? When you possess an impregnable fortress, if you will
defend it, why take shelter in an outwork, where defeat is certain? Why
select the very weakest position, one on which you will yourselves
present a divided front to the enemy, when it is in your power to choose
one on which you and we can all unite? You will thus afford an
opportunity to the abolitionists at the North to form a false issue with
your friends. You place us in such a condition that we cannot defend
you, without infringing the sacred right of petition. Do you not
perceive that the question of abolition may thus be indissolubly
connected, in public estimation, with a cause which we can never
abandon. If the abolitionists themselves had been consulted, I will
venture to assert, they ought to have advised the very course which has
been adopted by their greatest enemies.

The vote upon this unfortunate motion may do almost equal harm in the
South. It may produce an impression there, that we who will vote against
the motion are not friendly to the protection of their constitutional
rights. It may arouse jealousy and suspicion, where none ought to exist;
and may thus magnify a danger which has already been greatly
exaggerated. In defending any great cause, it is always disastrous to
take a position which cannot be maintained. Your forces thus become
scattered and inefficient, and the enemy may obtain possession of the
citadel whilst you are vainly attempting to defend an outpost. I am
sorry, indeed, that this motion has been made.

I shall now proceed to defend my own motion from the attacks which have
been made upon it. It has been equally opposed by both extremes. I have
not found, upon the present occasion, the maxim to be true, that “in
medio tutissimus ibis.” The Senator from Louisiana (Mr. Porter), and the
Senator from Massachusetts (Mr. Webster), seem both to believe that
little, if any, difference exists between the refusal to receive a
petition, and the rejection of its prayer after it has been received.
Indeed, the gentleman from Louisiana, whom I am happy to call my friend,
says he can see no difference at all between these motions. At the
moment I heard this remark, I was inclined to believe that it proceeded
from that confusion of ideas which sometimes exists in the clearest
heads of the country from which he derives his origin, and from which I
am myself proud to be descended. What, sir, no difference between
refusing to receive a request at all, and actually receiving it and
considering it respectfully, and afterwards deciding, without delay,
that it is not in your power to grant it! There is no man in the
country, acquainted with the meaning of the plainest words in the
English language, who will not recognize the distinction in a moment.

If a constituent of that gentleman should present to him a written
request, and he should tell him to go about his business, and take his
paper with him, that he would not have any thing to do with him or it:
this would be to refuse to receive the petition.

On the other hand, if the gentleman should receive this written request
of his constituent, read it over carefully and respectfully, and file it
away among his papers, but, finding it was of an unreasonable or
dangerous character, he should inform him, without taking further time
to reflect upon it, that the case was a plain one, and that he could
not, consistently with what he believed to be his duty, grant the
request: this would be to reject the prayer of the petition.

There is as much difference between the two cases, as there would be
between kicking a man down stairs who attempted to enter your house, and
receiving him politely, examining his request, and then refusing to
comply with it.

It has been suggested that the most proper course would be to refer this
petition to a committee. What possible good can result from referring
it? Is there a Senator on this floor who has not long since determined
whether he will vote to abolish slavery in this District or not? Does
any gentleman require the report of a committee, in order to enable him
to decide this question? Not one.

By granting the prayer of this memorial, as I observed on a former
occasion, you would establish a magazine of gunpowder here, from which
trains might be laid into the surrounding States, which would produce
fearful explosions. In the very heart of the slave-holding States
themselves you would erect an impregnable citadel from whence the
abolitionists might securely spread throughout these States, by
circulating their incendiary pamphlets and pictures, the seeds of
disunion, insurrection, and servile war. You would thus take advantage
of Virginia and Maryland in ceding to you this District, without
expressly forbidding Congress to abolish slavery here whilst it exists
within their limits. No man can, for one moment, suppose that they would
have made this cession upon any other terms, had they imagined that a
necessity could ever exist for such a restriction. Whatever may be my
opinion of the power of Congress, under the Constitution, to interfere
with this question, about which at present I say nothing, I shall as
steadily and as sternly oppose its exercise as if I believed no such
power to exist.

In making the motion now before the Senate, I intended to adopt as
strong a measure as I could, consistently with the right of petition and
a proper respect for the petitioners. I am the last man in the world who
would, intentionally, treat these respectable constituents of my own
with disrespect. I know them well, and prize them highly. On a former
occasion I did ample justice to their character. I deny that they are
abolitionists. I cannot, however, conceive how any person could have
supposed that it was disrespectful to them to refuse to grant their
prayer in the first instance, and not disrespectful to refuse to grant
it after their memorial had been referred to a committee. In the first
case their memorial will be received by the Senate, and will be filed
among the records of the country. That it has already been the subject
of sufficient deliberation and debate; that it has already occupied a
due portion of the time of the Senate, cannot be doubted or denied.
Every one acquainted with the proceedings of courts of justice must know
that often, very often, when petitions are presented to them, the
request is refused without any delay. This is always done in a plain
case by a competent judge. And yet who ever heard that this was treating
the petitioner with disrespect? In order to be respectful to these
memorialists, must we go through the unmeaning form, in this case, of
referring the memorial to a committee, and pretending to deliberate when
we are now all fully prepared to decide?

I repeat, too, that I intended to make as strong a motion in this case
as the circumstances would justify. It is necessary that we should use
every constitutional effort to suppress the agitation which now disturbs
the land. This is necessary, as much for the happiness and future
prospects of the slave as for the security of the master. Before this
storm began to rage, the laws in regard to slaves had been greatly
ameliorated by the slave-holding States; they enjoyed many privileges
which were unknown in former times. In some of the slave States
prospective and gradual emancipation was publicly and seriously
discussed. But now, thanks to the abolitionists, the slaves have been
deprived of these privileges, and whilst the integrity of the Union is
endangered, their prospect of final emancipation is delayed to an
indefinite period. To leave this question where the Constitution has
left it, to the slave-holding States themselves, is equally dictated by
a humane regard for the slave as well as for their masters.

There are other objections to the reference of this memorial to a
committee, which must, I think, be conclusive. I ask the Senate, after
witnessing the debate upon the present question, to what conclusion
could this committee arrive? If they attempted to assert any principle
beyond the naked proposition before us, that the prayer of the
memorialists ought not to be granted, we would be cast into a labyrinth
of difficulties. It would be confusion worse confounded. If we wish to
obtain a strong vote, and thus at the same time tranquilize the South
and the North upon this exciting topic, the reference of it to a
committee would be the most unfortunate course which we could adopt.
Senators are divided into four classes on this question. The first
believe that to abolish slavery in this District would be a violation of
the Constitution of the United States. Should the committee recommend
any proposition of a less decided character, these Senators would feel
it to be their duty to attempt to amend it, by asserting this principle;
and thus we should excite another dangerous and unprofitable debate. The
second class, although they may not believe that the subject is
constitutionally beyond the control of Congress, yet they think that the
acts of cession from Maryland and Virginia to the United States forbid
us to act upon the subject. These gentlemen would insist upon the
affirmance of this proposition. The third class would not go as far as
either of the former. They do not believe that the subject is placed
beyond the power of Congress, either by the Constitution or by the
compacts of cession, yet they are as firmly opposed to granting the
prayer of the petition, whilst slavery continues to exist in Maryland
and Virginia, as if they held both these opinions. They know that these
States never would have ceded this territory of ten miles square to the
United States upon any other condition, if it had entered into their
conception that Congress would make an attempt, sooner or later, to
convert it into a free district. Besides, they are convinced that to
exercise this power, at an earlier period, would seriously endanger not
only the peace and harmony of the Union, but its very existence. This
class of Senators, whilst they entertain these opinions, which ought to
be entirely satisfactory to the South, could never consent to vote for a
resolution declaring that to act upon the subject would be a violation
of the Constitution or of the compacts. The fourth class, and probably
not the least numerous, are opposed to the agitation of the question,
under existing circumstances, and will vote against the abolition of
slavery in this District at the present moment, but would be unwilling
to give any vote which might pledge them for the future. Here are the
elements of discord. Although we can all, or nearly all, agree in the
general result, yet we should differ essentially in the means of
arriving at it. The politic and the wise course, then, is, to adopt my
motion that the prayer of the memorialists ought to be rejected. Each
gentleman will arrive at this conclusion in his own way. Although we may
thus travel different roads, we will all reach the same point. Should
the committee go one step further than report this very proposition, we
should at once be separated into four divisions; and the result must be
that the whole subject would finally be laid upon the table, and thus
the abolitionists would obtain a victory over the friends of the Union
both to the North and to the South.

Before I made the motion now before the Senate, I deliberately and
anxiously considered all these embarrassing difficulties. At the first,
I was under the impression that the reference of this subject to a
committee would be the wisest course. In view of all the difficulties,
however, I changed my opinion: and I am now willing, most cheerfully, to
assume all the responsibility which may rest upon me for having made
this motion.

I might have moved to lay the memorial upon the table; but I did not
believe that this would be doing that justice to the South which she has
a right to demand at our hands. She is entitled to the strongest vote,
upon the strongest proposition, which gentlemen can give, without
violating their principles.

I have but a few more words to say. As events have deprived me of the
occupation assigned to me by the Senator from North Carolina (Mr.
Mangum), I feel myself at liberty to invade the province allotted by the
same gentleman to the Senator from New York (Mr. Wright), and to defend
a distinguished member of the Albany Regency. In this I am a mere
volunteer. I choose thus to act because Governor Marcy has expressed my
opinions better than I could do myself.

And here, permit me to say that, in my judgment, Southern gentlemen who
are not satisfied with his last message, so far as it relates to the
abolitionists, are very unreasonable. With the general tone and spirit
of that message no one has found any fault; no one can justly find any
fault. In point of fact, it is not even liable to the solitary objection
which has been urged against it, that he did not recommend to the
legislature the passage of a law for the purpose of punishing those
abolitionists who, in that State, should attempt to excite insurrection
and sedition in the slaveholding States, by the circulation of
inflammatory publications and pictures. It is true that he does not
advise the immediate passage of such a law, but this was because he
thought public opinion would be sufficient to put them down. He,
however, looks to it as eventually proper, in case, contrary to his
opinion, such a measure should become necessary to arrest the evil. He
expressly asserts, and clearly proves, that the legislature possesses
the power to pass such a law. This is the scope and spirit of his

Ought he to have recommended the immediate passage of such a law? I
think not. The history of mankind, in all ages, demonstrates that the
surest mode of giving importance to any sect, whether in politics or
religion, is to subject its members to persecution. It has become a
proverb, that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” By
persecution, religious sects, maintaining doctrines the most absurd and
the most extravagant—doctrines directly at war with the pure faith and
principles announced to the world by the Divine Author of our religion,
have been magnified into importance. I do not believe there is any State
in this Union (unless the information which we have received from the
Senators from Vermont might make that State an exception), where penal
laws of the character proposed would not advance, instead of destroying
the cause of the abolitionists. I feel confident such would be the event
in Pennsylvania. Severe legislation, unless there is a manifest
necessity for it, is always prejudicial. This question may be safely
left to public opinion, which, in our age, and in our country, like a
mighty torrent, sweeps away error. The people, although they may
sometimes be misled in the beginning, always judge correctly in the end.
Let severe penal laws on this subject be enacted in any State—let a few
honest but misguided enthusiasts be prosecuted under them—let them be
tried and punished in the face of the country, and you will thus excite
the sympathies of the people, and create a hundred abolitionists where
one only now exists. Southern gentlemen have no right to doubt our
sincerity on this subject, and they ought to permit us to judge for
ourselves as to the best mode of allaying the excitement which they
believe exists among ourselves.

If the spirit of abolition had become so extensive and so formidable as
some gentlemen suppose, we might justly be alarmed for the existence of
this Union. Comparatively speaking, I believe it to be weak and
powerless, though it is noisy. Without excitement got up here or
elsewhere, which may continue its existence for some time longer, it
will pass away in a short period, like the other excitements which have
disturbed the public mind, and are now almost forgotten.

On the 9th of March (1836) the following proceedings took place:

The Senate proceeded to consider the petition of the Society of Friends
in Philadelphia, on the subject of the abolition of slavery in the
District of Columbia.

The question being on the motion “that the petition be not received”—Mr.
Calhoun addressed the Senate in reply to what had fallen from other
Senators on the subject.

Mr. Clay made a few remarks in explanation, called for by some part of
the remarks of the Senator from South Carolina.

The question was then taken on the motion of Mr. Calhoun, “Shall the
petition be received?” and decided as follows:

Yeas,—Messrs. Benton, Brown, Buchanan, Clay, Clayton, Crittenden, Davis,
Ewing of Ill., Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Grundy, Hendricks, Hill,
Hubbard, Kent, King of Ala., King of Ga., Knight, Linn, McKean, Morris,
Naudain, Niles, Prentiss, Robbins, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Southard,
Swift, Tallmadge, Tipton, Tomlinson, Wall, Webster, Wright.—36.

Nays.—Messrs. Black, Calhoun, Cuthbert, Leigh, Moore, Nicholas, Preston,
Porter, Walker, White.—10.

The question being next on the motion of Mr. Buchanan, to reject the
prayer of the petition,

Mr. Clay made some remarks on the motion, and concluded by moving to
amend it by adding to it:—

For the Senate, without now affirming or denying the constitutional
power of Congress to grant the prayer of the petition, believes, even
supposing the power uncontested, which it is not, that the exercise of
it would be inexpedient;

1st. Because the people of the District of Columbia have not themselves
petitioned for the abolition of slavery within the District.

2d. Because the States of Virginia and Maryland would be injuriously
affected by such a measure, whilst the institution of slavery continues
to subsist within their respective jurisdictions, and neither of these
States would probably have ceded to the United States the territory now
forming the District if it had anticipated the adoption of any such
measure without clearly and expressly guarding against it. And,

3d. Because the injury which would be inflicted by exciting alarm and
apprehension in the States tolerating slavery, and by disturbing the
harmony between them and the other members of the Confederacy, would far
exceed any practical benefit which could possibly flow from the
abolition of slavery within the District.

Mr. Porter wished more time to reflect, and moved to lay the motion on
the table, but withdrew it at the instance of Mr. Buchanan.

Mr. Buchanan said that some remarks, both of the Senator from South
Carolina (Mr. Calhoun), and of the Senator from Kentucky (Mr. Clay),
compelled him to make a few observations in his own defence.

Sir, said Mr. B., I rejoice at the result of the vote which has this day
been recorded. It will forever secure to the citizens of this country,
the sacred right of petition. The question has now been finally settled
by a decisive vote of the Senate. The memorial which I presented from a
portion of the highly respectable Society of Friends, has been received
by a triumphant majority. Another happy consequence of this vote is,
that abolition is forever separated from the right of petition. The
abolitionists will now never be able to connect their cause with the
violation of a right so justly dear to the people. They must now stand
alone. This is the very position in which every friend of the Union,
both to the North and the South, ought to desire to see them placed.

From the remarks which have just been made by the Senators from South
Carolina and Kentucky, it might almost be supposed that my motion to
reject the prayer of the memorialists, was trifling with the right of
petition, which, in the course of debate, I have defended with all my
power. Is there the slightest foundation for such an imputation?

The memorial has been received by the Senate, and has been read. If this
body are in doubt whether they will grant its prayer—if they wish
further information upon this subject than what they already possess,
then they ought to refer it. On the other hand, if every Senator has
already determined how he will vote upon the question, why send the
memorial to a committee? It presents but one simple question for our
decision. It asks us to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. My
motion proposes that this prayer shall be rejected. Now, is it not
self-evident to every Senator upon this floor, that any committee which
can be formed out of this body, will arrive at the same conclusion? Why,
then, refer this memorial to obtain a report, when we already know what
that report will be? Why keep the question open for further agitation
and debate? Should it be referred to a committee, upon their report, we
shall have the same ground to travel over again which we have been
treading for so long a time. I have yet to learn that when a petition is
presented to any tribunal, in a case so clear as not to require
deliberation, that it is either disrespectful to the petitioners, or
that it infringes the right of petition, to decide against its prayer
without delay.

But in this case, powerful reasons exist why the memorial ought not to
be referred. Although we all agree that slavery ought not to be
abolished in the District of Columbia, yet we arrive at this conclusion
by different courses of reasoning. Before I presented this memorial, I
endeavored to ascertain from Senators whether it would be possible to
obtain a strong vote in favor of any proposition more specific in its
terms than that now before the Senate. I found this would be impossible.
I then made the motion to reject the prayer of the memorial, after much

I found the Senate divided upon this subject into four sections. One
portion was opposed to the prayer of the memorial, because, in their
opinion, it would be unconstitutional to grant it; another, because it
would violate our compacts of cession with Virginia and Maryland; a
third, because it would be inexpedient and unjust to abolish slavery in
this District, whilst it exists in the surrounding States; and a fourth,
who were unwilling to go even to this extent, but who equally condemned
its abolition at the present moment. Here were the elements of discord.
Whilst all, or nearly all, are harmonious in their conclusion that the
prayer of the petition ought not to be granted, their premises are far
different. My object was to get the strongest vote, for the purpose of
calming the agitation, both to the South and to the North. In order to
accomplish this purpose, my motion must be one on which the largest
majority could agree, and on which each member might vote for his own
peculiar reasons. I ask what motion could I have made, so well
calculated to attain the end, as the one now before the Senate?

The amendment which has just been proposed by the Senator from Kentucky
will, I fear, prove to be the apple of discord in this body. It is too
strong a measure for one portion of the Senate, whilst it is too weak
for another. Those who believe that we have no power under the
Constitution to abolish slavery in this District, will not vote for the
amendment, because it does recognize this principle; whilst such
gentlemen as deem it inexpedient at the present time to act upon the
subject, but who do not wish to commit themselves for the future, will
be equally opposed to the reasons which this amendment assigns. For my
own part, individually, I should not object to the amendment. I could
most cheerfully vote for all the principles which it contains. If I
believed it would unite in its favor as large a majority of the Senate
as the motion which I have made, unaccompanied by these reasons, it
should have my support. But this, I am convinced, will not be the case;
and my purpose is to obtain the largest vote possible, because this will
have the strongest influence upon public opinion. It would most
effectually check the agitation upon this subject.

Sir, said Mr. B., this question of domestic slavery is the weak point in
our institutions. Tariffs may be raised almost to prohibition, and then
they may be reduced so as to yield no adequate protection to the
manufacturer; our Union is sufficiently strong to endure the shock.
Fierce political storms may arise—the moral elements of the country may
be convulsed by the struggles of ambitious men for the highest honors of
the Government—the sunshine does not more certainly succeed the storm,
than that all will again be peace. Touch this question of slavery
seriously—let it once be made manifest to the people of the South that
they cannot live with us, except in a state of continual apprehension
and alarm for their wives and their children, for all that is near and
dear to them upon the earth,—and the Union is from that moment
dissolved. It does not then become a question of expediency, but of
self-preservation. It is a question brought home to the fireside, to the
domestic circle of every white man in the Southern States. This day,
this dark and gloomy day for the Republic, will, I most devoutly trust
and believe, never arrive. Although, in Pennsylvania, we are all opposed
to slavery in the abstract, yet we will never violate the constitutional
compact which we have made with our sister States. Their rights will be
held sacred by us. Under the Constitution it is their own question; and
there let it remain.

Mr. Preston said there may be other reasons; he had some which were
stronger than those assigned, and he should vote against these, which
contained a negative pregnant, looking to a state of things when
Congress could act on the subject.

Mr. Porter said one of his reasons for wishing to lay on the table the
amendment was, that he might examine and ascertain if such reasons as
would be satisfactory to him, so as to command his vote, could be
assigned. He renewed his motion, and again withdrew it; when

Mr. Clay stated that he had no objection to let the amendment lie for
further examination.

After a few words from Mr. Cuthbert, on motion of Mr. Morris, the Senate

On the 11th of March, the following proceedings occurred:

Mr. Leigh rose, and said that, in pursuance of the promise which he
yesterday made to the Senate to move to resume the consideration of the
abolition petition at the earliest moment that he should have decided
what course his duty required him to pursue in regard to the amendment
which he yesterday offered to the motion for rejection, now moved that
the Senate take up that subject.

The motion having been agreed to, Mr. Leigh withdrew the amendment
offered by him yesterday; and the question recurred on Mr. Buchanan’s
motion that _the prayer of the petition be rejected_.

[The following is a copy of the petition:


The memorial of Caln Quarterly Meeting of the Religious Society of
Friends, commonly called Quakers, respectfully represents: That, having
long felt deep sympathy with that portion of the inhabitants of these
United States which is held in bondage, and having no doubt that the
happiness and interests, moral and pecuniary, of both master and slave,
and our whole community, would be greatly promoted if the inestimable
right to liberty was extended equally to all, we contemplate with
extreme regret that the District of Columbia, over which you possess
entire control, is acknowledged to be one of the greatest marts for the
traffic in the persons of human beings in the known world,
notwithstanding the principles of the Constitution declare that all men
have an unalienable right to the blessing of liberty.

We therefore earnestly desire that you will enact such laws as will
secure the right of freedom to every human being residing within the
constitutional jurisdiction of Congress, and prohibit every species of
traffic in the persons of men, which is as inconsistent in principle,
and inhuman in practice, as the foreign slave trade.

Signed by direction, and on behalf of the aforesaid quarterly meeting,
held in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, the 19th of 11 mo., 1835.

                                                      LINDLEY COATS,
                                                       ESTHER HAYES,


The yeas and nays were ordered on the question of rejection.

Mr. McKean moved to amend the motion by striking out all after the word
“that”—(namely, the words “the prayer of the petition to be rejected,”)
and inserting “it is inexpedient at this time to legislate on the
subject of slavery in the District of Columbia.”

On this question the yeas and nays were ordered, on his motion.

The question being taken, it was decided as follows:

Yeas—Messrs. Hendricks, McKean—2.

Nays—Messrs. Benton, Black, Brown, Buchanan, Clay, Crittenden, Cuthbert,
Davis, Ewing of Illinois, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Grundy, Hill,
Hubbard, King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Knight, Leigh, Linn,
Nicholas, Niles, Porter, Prentiss, Preston, Robbins, Robinson, Ruggles,
Shepley, Swift, Tallmadge, Tipton, Tomlinson, Walker, Wall, Webster,
White, Wright—37.

Mr. McKean moved to amend the motion by inserting between the first word
“that” and the words “the prayer of the petition be rejected,” the words
“inexpedient to legislate on the subject of slavery in the District of
Columbia, and that.”

On this question he called for the yeas and nays, which were ordered.

The question was then taken, and decided as follows:

Yeas—Messrs. Ewing of Ohio, Hendricks, McKean—3.

Nays—Messrs. Benton, Black, Brown, Buchanan, Clay, Crittenden, Cuthbert,
Davis, Ewing of Illinois, Goldsborough, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard, King of
Alabama, King of Georgia, Knight, Leigh, Linn, Moore, Niles, Nicholas,
Preston, Porter, Robbins, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Swift, Tallmadge,
Tipton, Tomlinson, Walker, Wall, Webster, White, Wright—36.

The question being on the original motion of Mr. Buchanan, “that the
prayer of the petition be rejected”—

Mr. McKean said that, in offering the amendments which he had proposed,
he had discharged his conscience of an imperative duty. It had pleased
the Senate to reject these amendments, and, as he was thus deprived of
the power of making the motion more palatable, all that he could now do
was to vote for the proposition of his colleague.

Same day, after debate.—The question was then taken on the motion to
reject the prayer of the petition, and decided as follows:

Yeas—Messrs. Benton, Black, Brown, Buchanan, Clay, Crittenden, Cuthbert,
Ewing of Illinois, Ewing of Ohio, Goldsborough, Grundy, Hill, Hubbard,
King of Alabama, King of Georgia, Leigh, Linn, McKean, Moore, Nicholas,
Niles, Porter, Preston, Robbins, Robinson, Ruggles, Shepley, Tallmadge,
Tipton, Tomlinson, Walker, Wall, White, Wright—34.

Nays—Messrs. Davis, Hendricks, Knight, Prentiss, Swift, Webster—6.

So the prayer of the petition was rejected.

On the 25th of April, Mr. Buchanan presented a petition from the Society
of Friends, in Philadelphia, on which he said:

He rose to present the memorial of the Yearly Meeting of the religious
Society of Friends, which had been recently held in the city of
Philadelphia, remonstrating against the admission of Arkansas into the
Union, whilst a provision remained in her constitution which admits of
and may perpetuate slavery. This Yearly Meeting embraced within its
jurisdiction the greater part of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the whole
of the State of Delaware, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The
language of this memorial was perfectly respectful. Indeed, it could not
be otherwise, considering the source from which it emanated. It breathed
throughout the pure and Christian spirit which had always animated the
Society of Friends; and although he did not concur with them in opinion,
their memorial was entitled to be received with great respect.

When the highly respectable committee,[54] which had charge of this
memorial, called upon him this morning, and requested him to present it
to the Senate, he had felt it to be his duty to inform them in what
relation he stood to the question. He stated to them that he had been
requested by the delegate from Arkansas to take charge of the
application of that Territory to be admitted into the Union, and that he
had cheerfully taken upon himself the performance of this duty. He also
read to them the 8th section of the act of Congress of 6th March, 1820,
containing the famous Missouri compromise; and informed them that the
whole Territory of Arkansas was south of the parallel of 36 degrees and
a half of north latitude; and _that he regarded this compromise,
considering the exciting and alarming circumstances under which it was
made, and the dangers to the existence of the Union which it had
removed, to be almost as sacred as a constitutional provision_. That
there might be no mistake on the subject, he had also informed them that
in presenting their memorial he should feel it to be his duty to state
these facts to the Senate. With this course on his part they were
satisfied, and still continued their request that he might present the
memorial. He now did so with great pleasure. He hoped it might be
received by the Senate with all the respect it so highly deserved. He
asked that it might be read; and as the question of the admission of
Arkansas was no longer before us, he moved that it might be laid upon
the table. The memorial was accordingly read, and was ordered to be laid
upon the table.

The next time that the subject of slavery came before the Senate was in
June, 1836. It then arose upon a bill which had been proposed in
conformity with a special recommendation by President Jackson, in his
annual message of December, 1835, to restrain the use of the mails for
the circulation of _incendiary publications_. The bill contained the
following provisions:

_Be it enacted, &c_., That it shall not be lawful for any deputy
postmaster, in any State, Territory, or District of the United States,
knowingly to deliver to any person whatever, any pamphlet, newspaper,
handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation touching
the subject of slavery, where, by the laws of the said State, Territory,
or District, their circulation is prohibited; and any deputy postmaster
who shall be guilty thereof, shall be forthwith removed from office.

SEC. 2. _And be it further enacted_, That nothing in the acts of
Congress to establish and regulate the Post Office Department, shall be
construed to protect any deputy postmaster, mail carrier, or other
officer or agent of said department, who shall knowingly circulate in
any State, Territory, or District, as aforesaid, any such pamphlet,
newspaper, handbill, or other printed paper or pictorial representation,
forbidden by the laws of such State, Territory, or District.

SEC. 3. _And be it further enacted by the authority aforesaid_, That the
deputy postmasters of the offices where the pamphlets, newspapers,
handbills, or other printed papers or pictorial representations
aforesaid, may arrive for delivery, shall, under the instructions of the
Postmaster General, from time to time give notice of the same, so that
they may be withdrawn, by the person who deposited them originally to be
mailed, and if the same shall not be withdrawn in one month thereafter,
shall be burnt or otherwise destroyed.

This bill, on the 2d of June, 1836, was ordered to be engrossed and read
a third time, by the casting vote of Mr. Van Buren, the Vice-President.
On the 8th of June the following debate and proceedings took place:

Mr. Webster addressed the Senate at length in opposition to the bill,
commencing his argument against what he contended was its vagueness and
obscurity in not sufficiently defining what were the publications, the
circulation of which it intended to prohibit. The bill provided that it
should not be lawful for any deputy postmaster, in any State, Territory,
or District of the United States, knowingly to deliver to any person
whatever, any pamphlet, newspaper, handbill, or other printed matter or
pictorial representation, touching the subject of slavery, where by the
laws of said State, District, or Territory, their circulation was
prohibited. Under this provision Mr. W. contended that it was impossible
to say what publications might not be prohibited from circulation. No
matter what was the publication, whether for or against slavery—if it
touched the subject in any shape or form, it would fall under the
prohibition. Even the Constitution of the United States might be
prohibited; and the person who was clothed with the power to judge in
this delicate matter was one of the deputy postmasters who,
notwithstanding the difficulties with which he was encompassed in coming
to a correct decision must decide correctly, under pain of being removed
from office. It would be necessary, also, he said, for the deputy
postmasters referred to in this bill to make themselves acquainted with
all the various laws passed by the States, touching this subject of
slavery, and to decide them, no matter how variant they might be with
each other. Mr. W. also contended that the bill conflicted with that
provision in the Constitution which prohibited Congress from passing any
law to abridge the freedom of speech or of the press. What was the
liberty of the press? he asked. It was the liberty of printing as well
as the liberty of publishing, in all the ordinary modes of publication;
and was not the circulation of the papers through the mails an ordinary
mode of publication? He was afraid that they were in some danger of
taking a step in this matter, that they might hereafter have cause to
regret, by its being contended that whatever in this bill applies to
publications touching slavery, applies to other publications that the
States might think proper to prohibit; and Congress might, under this
example, be called upon to pass laws to suppress the circulation of
political, religious, or any other description of publications, which
produced excitement in the States. Was this bill in accordance with the
general force and temper of the Constitution and its amendments? It was
not in accordance with that provision of the instrument, under which the
freedom of speech and of the press was secured. Whatever laws the State
Legislatures might pass on the subject, Congress was restrained from
legislating in any manner whatever, with regard to the press. It would
be admitted, that if a newspaper came directed to him, he had a property
in it; and how could any man, then, take that property and burn it
without due form of law? and he did not know how this newspaper could be
pronounced an unlawful publication and having no property in it, without
a legal trial.

Mr. W. argued against the right to examine into the nature of
publications sent to the post-office, and said that the right of an
individual in his papers, was secured to him in every free country in
the world. In England, it was expressly provided that the papers of the
subject shall be free from all unreasonable searches and
seizures—language, he said, to be found in our Constitution. This
principle established in England, so essential to liberty, had been
followed out in France, where the right of printing and publishing was
secured in the fullest extent; the individual publishing being amenable
to the laws for what he published; and every man printed and published
what he pleased, at his peril. Mr. W. went on at some length to show
that the bill was contrary to that provision of the Constitution, which
prohibits Congress to pass any law abridging the freedom of speech or of
the press.

Mr. Buchanan said, that as he had voted for the engrossment of this
bill, and should vote for its final passage, he felt himself bound to
defend and justify his vote against the argument of the Senator from
Massachusetts (Mr. Webster). In doing so, he would imitate that Senator,
if in no other respect, at least in being brief.

It is indispensable to the clear and distinct understanding of any
argument, to know precisely what is the question under discussion.
Without this knowledge, we cannot tell whether in any or what degree the
argument is applicable to the subject. What, then, is the naked question
now under discussion, stripped of all the mist which has been cast
around it? This bill embraced but a single principle, though this
principle was carried out through three sections. It provides that
deputy postmasters, within the limits of such slaveholding States as
have found it necessary for their own safety to pass laws making it
penal to circulate inflammatory publications and pictorial
representations calculated to excite the slaves to insurrection, shall
not be protected by the laws of the United States, in violating these
State laws. Postmasters within these States who shall _knowingly_
distribute such publications are liable to be removed from office. The
bill also provides that the post-office laws of the United States shall
not protect postmasters, mail carriers, or other officers or agents of
the department who shall knowingly circulate such incendiary
publications, from the penalties denounced against this offence under
the laws of the States. This is the spirit and principle of the bill. It
does no more than to withdraw the protection of the laws of the United
States, establishing the Post Office Department, from postmasters and
other agents of this Government who shall wilfully transgress State laws
deemed absolutely necessary to secure the States, within which they
exist, from servile insurrection.

This bill did not affect, in the slightest degree, any of the
non-slaveholding States. Neither did it apply to any of the slaveholding
States, except those within which the danger of insurrection had become
so imminent as to compel them to pass laws of the character referred to
in the bill.

Of the policy and justice of passing such a bill he could not doubt,
provided we possess the power. No person would contend that this
Government ought to become the instrument of exciting insurrection
within any of the States, unless we were constrained to pursue this
course by an overruling constitutional necessity. The question then is,
does any such necessity exist? Are we bound by the Constitution of the
United States, through our post-offices, to circulate publications among
the slaves, the direct tendency of which is to excite their passions and
rouse them to insurrection? Have we no power to stay our hand in any
case? Even if a portion of this Union were in a state of open rebellion
against the United States, must we aid and assist the rebels by
communicating to them, through our Post Office Department, such
publications and information as may encourage and promote their designs
against the very existence of the confederacy itself? If the
Constitution of the United States has placed us in this deplorable
condition, we must yield to its mandates, no matter what may be the

Mr. B. did not believe that the Constitution placed us in any such
position. Our power over the mails was as broad and general as any words
in the English language could confer. The Constitution declares that
“Congress shall have power to establish post-offices and post roads.”
This is the only provision which it contains touching the subject. After
the establishment of these post-offices and post roads, who shall decide
upon the purposes for which they shall be used? He answered, Congress,
and Congress alone. There was no limitation, no restriction, whatever,
upon our discretion contained in the bond. We have the power to decide
what shall and what shall not be carried in the mail, and what shall be
the rate of postage. He freely admitted that, unless in extreme cases,
where the safety of the Republic was involved, we should never exercise
this power of discrimination between what papers should and should not
be circulated through the mail. The Constitution, however, has conferred
upon us this general power, probably for the very purpose of meeting
these extreme cases; and it is one which, from its delicate nature, we
shall not be likely to abuse.

He differed entirely from the opinion of the Senator from South Carolina
(Mr. Calhoun), as to the source whence the power was derived to pass
this bill. No action of the State Legislatures could either confer it or
take it away. It was perfect and complete in itself under the Federal
Constitution, or it had no existence. With that Senator he entirely
concurred in opinion, that the sedition law was clearly
unconstitutional. Congress have no power to abridge the freedom of the
press, or to pass any law to prevent or to punish any publication
whatever. He understood the freedom of the press to mean precisely what
the Senator from Massachusetts had stated. But does it follow, as the
gentleman contends, that because we have no power over the press, that
therefore we are bound to carry and distribute anything and everything
which may proceed from it, even if it should be calculated to stir up
insurrection or to destroy the Government? So far as this Government is
concerned, every person may print, and publish, and circulate whatever
he pleases; but are we, therefore, compelled to become his agents, and
to circulate for him everything he may choose to publish? This is the
question. Any gentleman upon this floor may write what he thinks proper
against my character; but because he can exercise this liberty, am I
therefore bound to carry and to circulate what he has written? So any
individual within the broad limits of this Union, without previous
restraint and without danger of punishment from the Federal Government,
may publish what is calculated to aid and assist the enemies of the
country in open war; but does it follow, as a necessary consequence,
that this very Government is bound to carry and circulate such
publications through its mails? A more perfect _non sequitur_ never had
been presented to his mind. It was one thing not to restrain or punish
publications; it was another and an entirely different thing to carry
and circulate them after they have been published. The one is merely
passive; the other is active. It was one thing to leave our citizens
entirely free to print and publish and circulate what they pleased; and
it was another thing to call upon us to aid in their circulation. From
the prohibition to make any law “abridging the freedom of speech or of
the press,” it could never be inferred that we must provide by law for
the circulation through the post-office of everything which the press
might publish. And yet this is the argument both of the Senator from
Massachusetts and the Senator from South Carolina. If this argument were
well founded, it was very clear to his mind, that no State law could
confer upon Congress any power to pass this bill. We derived our powers
from the Federal Constitution, and from that alone. If, under its
provisions, we have had no authority to pass the bill, we could derive
no such authority from the laws of the States.

Why, then, did Mr. B. vote for a bill to prevent the circulation of
publications prohibited by State laws? Not because we derived any power
from these laws; but, under the circumstances, they contained the best
rule to guide us in deciding what publ